Georgia tagged Tennessee pitchers for five runs in the seventh inning and took game three of the weekend series 8-3.
Tennessee’s bats managed one run in the first, second and fourth innings — all off UGA starter Liam Sullivan. In the first, that one score, from a Drew Gilbert single, was all the punch UT could muster despite Sullivan offering up one hit, two walks and a wild pitch. Those wasted opportunities would be a recurring theme the rest of the game.
In the fourth, after UGA tagged Ben Joyce for three runs via back-to-back home runs, the Vols answered with two consecutive singles, which chased Sullivan. Reliever Jaden Woods walked Evan Russell, which loaded up the bases. Woods ended up walking in one run when he gave up a free pass to Cortland Lawson, but he also struck out three Vols, looking, to get out of bases-loaded jam mostly unscathed.
Woods gave up back-to-back walks to start the sixth inning, but three-straight Vols struck out, two of them with bats on their shoulders.
Ben Joyce was pulled after the fourth, having struck out six and walked two while allowing those three runs. Kirby Connell was the first reliever out of the bullpen for Tennessee, and he looked as good as I’ve seen him look at year. He went two innings and struck out five of the six batters he faced. He didn’t give up a hit or a walk.
In the seventh, after Tennessee left those two runners stranded in the sixth, Vitello brought Drew Beam out of the bullpen and UGA jumped on him for three-straight singles. Redmond Walsh was next, but Georgia knocked in all three of those runners plus two more with a sacrifice bunt, another single and a home run.
Georgia’s Jack Gowen mowed through the final 3.2 innings with relative ease. He struck out five and didn’t allow a hit, walk or a run.
Cole and Connor Tate accounted for four of UGA’s five runs in the seventh and represented a thorn in Tennessee’s side all series. In total, they combined to go 11-23 at the plate with seven of UGA’s 12 total runs in the three games.
Vitello is likely already getting criticized given the pitching decisions from Saturday. Both Joyce and Beam pitched in atypical scenarios, given that Joyce has been a reliever all season and started the game, while Beam has been a starter and saw a relief appearance. Combined, they were charged with six of the eight UGA runs. Chase Burns, who started Fridays most of the season, also saw a relief appearance in game two of the series.
“I think for us to be ready in any situation, it helps if those guys at least know what it looks like at least once to come out of the bullpen,” Vitello said, via KNS. “So for all practical purposes, to me, our guys need to think that we’re in playoff mode right now.”
On a brighter note, with Friday’s win in game two and an Arkansas loss, Tennessee clinched its first-ever, outright regular-season SEC Title.
Belmont comes to town on Tuesday for the midweek game, and then the fellas go to Mississippi State Thursday for the last series of the regular season.