Nine hits and 10 runs — plus four Bulldog errors — helped propel the Vols to their seventh series sweep of the 2022 SEC season by dropping Mississippi State 10-5 in the finale of the last regular-season series of the year.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead when leadoff man RJ Yeager took Drew Beam deep on the third pitch of the game. MSU and I have something in common — days that start with Yeager bombs end poorly.
The Volunteer bats responded in the next half inning with three runs, despite recording just one hit: Drew Gilbert reached on catcher’s interference to lead things off, and then Trey Lipscomb hit his 21st home run of the season (which tied him for the SEC lead in dingers with Florida’s Wyatt Langford). A Jorel Ortega walk put a man on, then a Bulldog error, another walk and an Evan Russell fly-out put Ortega at third so that Seth Stephenson could plate him with another flyball out. All in all, Tennessee scored three and stranded three thanks to two Bulldog defensive miscues and three walks.
In the bottom of the second, the Vols’ inability to handle runners on base from behind the plate struck, again, as Kellum Clark singled, stole his way into scoring position and subsequently scored off a Kamren James base hit. State tried to duplicate the scenario when James stole second, too, but then got thrown out in the same at-bat when he stole third but slide past the bag, allowing Lipscomb to apply the tag.
Those two innings were it for UT starter Drew Beam, and it won’t go down as Beam’s best outing of the season. He gave up three hits, two runs and a walk in his two innings, and though he threw 24 of his 37 pitches for strikes, I didn’t see any of the mid-90s he’s known to touch on the fastball. In his last five appearances, his strikeout numbers are down, while he’s allowing more hits, more runs and more walks. I don’t know what all that does or doesn’t mean, but it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Ben Joyce replaced him today, initially, and was a bit, uh, volatile. He only allowed one hit and didn’t surrender a run, but he hit two batters and threw just 19 of his 37 pitches for strikes. Though the numbers aren’t great, he had some of his nastier stuff today. We some serious sinker/ two-seam run on the triple-digit heater, like here:
And then there was this other-worldly changeup:
In case you were wondering if Ben Joyce has secondary pitches...here's his Changeup. pic.twitter.com/v4eRDPYHvq— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 21, 2022
The offense added two more runs in the third inning — a two-run home run from Jorel Ortega — and one more in the fourth — thanks to a leadoff, four-pitch walk from Seth Stephenson that turned into a run off another State error. MSU walked three total batters in the third, but Ortega struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the frame.
Evan Russell hit a solo HR in the fourth, and then Gilbert doubled in two runs before Ortega scored him on a sacrifice one batter later in the sixth.
State scored two in the seventh when Camden Sewell gave up four-straight singles and was pulled without getting an out before adding one more, final run in the eighth of Will Mabrey.
Tennessee’s SEC Tournament begins Wednesday at 5:30 PM (ET).