After a brutal weekend in Lexington, the Vols mercifully return home to play host to Georgia. The Bulldogs sit at 32-16 overall and 13-11 in SEC play, good for second place in the East. Georgia dropped two of three in Athens against Vanderbilt in their last series.
How to Watch
Thursday 5/12: ESPNU @ 7 PM ET
Friday 5/13: SEC Network @ 5:30 PM ET
Saturday 5/14: SEC Network+ @ 1 PM ET
Reality check. It was a long weekend in Lexington as the Vols struggled to find any footing, dropping their first series of the season. In the majors, we see the dog days of Summer, and perhaps the Vols are facing a bit of their own Spring gloom.
The Vols offense struggled to string together much of anything, plating just four runs in the first two games combined against a Kentucky team that gives up over six per game on average in SEC play. Game one of the series really encapsulated the weekend for the Vols. In a 3-2 loss in 13 innings, Tennessee failed to get a baserunner to second base from the sixth inning on, going eight consecutive innings without a runner in scoring position to end the game.
The offense has been a sore spot recently, averaging just 6.2 runs per game over the Vols’ last three series. That number is inflated pretty substantially by their 17 run outburst against Auburn, and even still, that’s still nearly a full run below their average in SEC play. They’re slashing .250/.349/.452/.801 in that span, again carried heavily by one game, and still that .801 on-base plus slugging is nearly 100 points less than their .899 OPS in conference play.
Over their last five contests in conference play, it’s been incredibly concerning. The Vols are slashing .220/.320/.339/.659 with just five home runs and 42 strikeouts, scoring just 4.4 runs per game. The Vols have lost three of those last five. Georgia ranks second in the conference in batting average in conference play, so Tennessee is going to need their stars to start swinging it well again.
Not everything was all bad. The Vols were able to salvage the series with a win in game three, and the bats were alive and well, scoring seven runs in a seven inning victory. Drew Beam was his typical efficient self, allowing just two runs (one earned) in four innings of work, and though his velocity was a tick down, he was still the best starting outing the Vols got all weekend.
As for Georgia, they rely heavily on their bats. In SEC play, they have the third most runs scored behind only Tennessee and Texas A&M.
Last Series’ Impact Players
Evan Russell: 1-10, 2 BB, 4 K
— A huge swing and a miss. Not an ideal series for Russell. He struggled at the plate and even more behind the dish. Kentucky stole 11 times in the series, six of which came in game three.
#TreyWatch: No HR against Kentucky
— Perhaps it was the weather, but there was a colossal power failure in Lexington last weekend. No tanks from Trey this series.
Vols Impact Players vs. Georgia
It was announced on Wednesday that Chase Dollander will take the bump on Thursday to open the series against Georgia.
Overall, the Vols starting pitching is still strong, especially in SEC play this season. That being said, the cracks have become more evident with each passing start for Chase Burns, and we mentioned the slight velo drop with Beam’s fastball. Blade Tidwell is in a “finding it” process. He struggled to find the zone against Auburn, issuing four walks, and while he cleaned the walks up against Kentucky, everything he was throwing was right over the heart of the plate, and the ‘Cats burned him for it.
Through the struggles, however, the Vols did get back one man who has been utterly dominant against the SEC this season, and his return couldn’t have been timed any better.
Dollander has mowed through the SEC this season, and no liner off the elbow could slow him down upon his return. Dollander came in for a struggling Tidwell in game two, and though the Vols still fell short, he slowed Kentucky’s hot start to a grinding halt, allowing an unearned run in four innings of relief, striking out five of the 15 batters he faced. Dollander’s ERA in SEC play sits at a cool 2.03.
Setting the tone is a very passé phrase, but perhaps the Vols could use that. Dollander could very well be that much needed tone setter on the mound, something the Vols haven’t gotten in series openers as of late.
We are on hashtag Trey watch until further notice. Lipscomb added his 19th home run of the season against Bellarmine on Tuesday, and he’s now just one homer shy of joining the very exclusive 20 home run club in Tennessee history. He’s now just five shy of tying Sonny Cortez’s school record of 24 back in ‘98.
Thursday: Chase Dollander
Season Stats: 50.2 IP | 2.66 ERA | 2.93 FIP | 0.789 WHIP | 39.8 K% | 4.08 BB% | 35.72 K-BB%
vs. SEC Only: 31 IP | 2.03 ERA | 3.43 FIP | 0.677 WHIP | 34.19 K% | 2.56 BB% | 31.63 K-BB%
→ .162/.181/.333/.514 slash line against in SEC play
Friday: Blade Tidwell
Season Stats: 17 IP | 3.18 ERA | 2.84 FIP | 1.118 WHIP | 38.03 K% | 7.04 BB% | 30.99 K-BB%
vs. SEC Only: 13 IP | 3.46 ERA | 3.24 FIP | 1.231 WHIP | 32.73 K% | 9.09 BB% | 23.64 K-BB%
→ .229/.309/.354/.663 slash line against in SEC play
Saturday: TBD (Burns or Beam likely)
Season Stats: 60 IP | 2.25 ERA | 4.66 FIP | 1.117 WHIP | 31.98 K% | 8.91 BB% | 23.07 K-BB%
vs. SEC Only: 40 IP | 3.15 ERA | 4.65 FIP | 1.200 WHIP | 31.95 K% | 8.88 BB% | 23.07 K-BB%
Season Stats: 67 IP | 2.15 ERA | 4.51 FIP | 0.761 WHIP | 21.26 K% | 4.72 BB% | 16.54 K-BB%
vs. SEC Only: 50 IP | 2.34 ERA | 3.94 FIP | 0.760 WHIP | 19.9 K% | 3.14 BB% | 16.76 K-BB%
The Vols need a major bounce back this weekend, and Georgia is going to put up a fight. The arms will be needed to steady the ship, but the bats will steer the mast to get this team where it needs to go.
Once again, this is a THURSDAY start for the weekend series. Be sure to tune in and support the BaseVols as they look to spark a new winning streak.