Saturday’s game was a bit light on runs, but the Vols got the 3-0 win thanks in large part to stellar performances on the mound from starter Blade Tidwell and reliever Camden Sewell.
Tennessee’s typical Saturday starter, Chase Dollander, missed the game as he’s still recovering from that ricochet he took last weekend against Alabama. Tidwell got the weekend start in Dollander’s stead and looked every bit the All-American status he earned as the Vols’ Sunday starter last year.
The sophomore cruised through 4.2 innings of work and allowed just two hits through the 17 batters he faced. He held the Gator lineup hitless through 3.2 innings, induced five ground-ball outs and struck out a season-high five hitters. Those two hits allowed amounted to the only trouble Tidwell faced all game.
With two outs, Florida’s three-and-four hitters, Sterlin Thompson and Wyatt Langford, had back-to-back base hits, but Tidwell ended the inning and UF’s scoring chances with a gnarly, full-count changeup.
I imagine the staff had Tidwell on some sort of pitch count, since he was pulled with two outs in the fifth for Camden Sewell. Tidwell’s day, in his first weekend start: 4.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 0 R.
Sewell doesn’t have the high-90s, swing-and-miss stuff Tidwell has, but against Florida he was just as effective.
The swiss-army knife of Tennessee’s staff slammed the door on the Gators with 4.1 innings of relief, as he needed just 45 pitches to sit down 14 batters without allowing a hit. He walked one and hit a batter, but he finished strong and recorded all three of his Ks in the final inning. It seems to be feast or famine with Sewell this season — he’s either on, or he isn’t. He’s allowed the opposing team to score in four of his appearances this year, and he’s allowed more than one run on all four of those occasions.
Florida’s pitchers gave the Tennessee bats some trouble, too, though. Starter Brandon Sproat seemed to have a better outing than his box score would indicate. He forced two double plays early and allowed just one hit through four innings. But Luc Lipcius’ 11th home run of the season made it a 1-0 game in the top of the fifth, and then a Jordan Beck single turned into a Drew Gilbert two-run home run in the sixth. As good as Sproat was through four, he ended up surrendering five hits, four walks and the three runs that ended up deciding the game.
It’s important for Tennessee to snag these pitcher’s-duel kinda games, because there’s undoubtedly gonna be one or two of these later in the season when the stakes are a bit higher — like, say, in the College World Series. The bats can’t always be hot, right?
Drew Beam gets the start on Sunday as the Vols look for their fifth sweep during SEC play so far this season.