The Vols’ Friday-starter and proposed No. 1 pitching prospect in college baseball, Chase Dollander, got tagged for nine hits and six runs in 5.2 innings as Missouri pummeled Tennessee 9-1 in the opening game of SEC action.
Dollander struck out fewer players, four, than he allowed extra-base hits, six, though he only walked one batter. That’s a plus, right? He threw just 56 of his 77 total pitches for strikes.
Things got bad fast for Tennessee’s ace, as Mizzou jumped on him for four runs in the bottom of the first inning. After sitting down the first Missouri batter via strikeout, Dollander gave up two-straight doubles and a subsequent triple — all three on 0-2 or 1-2 counts.
I figure after that first inning, Vitello would just leave Dollander in and see if the offense could score a few runs and make a game of it rather than go to the bullpen early in the first game of a three-game series. But the offense didn’t show up.
A Christian Moore single in the top of the first was one of three total hits for the Vols on the day, as Missouri starter and Arizona transfer Chandler Murphy went six innings and allowed just one run — a solo shot for Moore with one out in the sixth. After that, Murphy stayed in the game and sat down Blake Burke and Zane Denton in order on six total pitches.
Maui Ahuna was the only other Tennessee batter to record a hit, which was a two-out single in the top of the third. Murphy then walked Moore, and it looked like the Vols might have a chance to put a run or two across. But Murphy struck out Burke on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
Vitello went with the kids today, as he started Kavares Tears in right and Dylan Dreiling at DH. It’s the right move, even though it didn’t pay off today as the duo combined to go 0-6 with two strikeouts. But playing the youngsters has a much higher ceiling than sticking with Christian Scott and Kyle Booker, two upperclassmen who have not taken their chance and ran with it, like, say, Trey Lipscomb did last season.
Booker, a junior, started the season just awfully, but managed to get his average all the way up to above .300. The next game, he went 1-5 against Boston College and hasn’t started a game since. Scott’s a senior and Tennessee native, but his average has dropped every season since he hit .321 in 28 at-bats his freshman year. This season — he’s hitting .190.
As troubling as Dollander’s performance was, it wasn’t any better to see Missouri tag Andre Lindsey for a hit and three runs as Lindsey plunked the leadoff batter in the eighth, gave up a single to the next batter and then plunked another hitter. A sac fly scored the first batter that Lindsey hit, and Vitello brought in Bryce Jenkins to get the final two outs. Naturally, Missouri laid down a bunt and a Jenkins error cost Tennessee another run as the batter who singled off Lindsey earlier in the inning came home to score.
The box score reads like a bloody comic book: the Vols scored one run on three hits, made an error and stranded three runners, while the Tigers scored nine off 11 hits while still managing to strand four.
Tennessee’s offense combined for ten strikeouts, and the only two batters who didn’t get sat down via K who played were Christian Moore and Charlie Taylor. Ahuna and Denton each struck out twice, but at least Ahuna got a hit. UT’s 3-4-5 hitters, Burke, Denton and Griffin Merritt, combined to go 0-11 with four Ks and three stranded runners.
Mizzou used just two pitchers, as Rorik Maltrud got a three-inning save by allowing no runs, no hits, no walks and striking out five of the nine batters he faced.
The Vols can try and save a series win tomorrow with Chase Burns on the mound, but they obviously don’t stand a chance if the bats don’t show up. The first pitch is slated for 3 PM.