Tennessee is now 0-3 in SEC play after dropping both games of today’s double-header (yesterday’s day was moved because of the cold weather) against Missouri, 7-4 and 7-1.
Both games today were just seven innings due to the rescheduling.
Not awfully dissimilar to Friday’s game — when Mizzou tagged Chase Dollander early in the game — the Missouri bats smashed Vols’ Saturday starter Chase Burns for seven runs (six earned) on eight hits, including two home runs and two doubles.
Still — Burns managed to sit down 12 Tigers via strikeout and only walked one batter. Again, like Friday, Missouri jumped on Burns early with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. A lead-off double got singled home by the Tiger’s two-hole hitter Ross Lovich, then DH Dalton Bargo took Burns deep to right-center on a 1-2 pitch. Burns responded by sitting the next three batters down in order, all on strikeouts.
Once again, the Tennessee bats just didn’t have enough punch to rally. The Vols didn’t plate a run until the fourth, when Hunter Ensley got on base with a catcher’s interference call. Hensley stole second on a Dylan Dreiling strikeout, then Maui Ahuna brought Ensley home with a single to center. Ahuna got caught trying to steal second to end the inning.
The Tigers scored two in the third, one in the fourth and one in the fifth, while Tennessee scored once in the sixth off a Griffin Merritt sole home run and twice in the seventh, as Zane Denton hit a two-run shot with two outs.
But Charlie Taylor struck out swinging to end the first game.
The Vols made two errors — both on Blake Burke at first — and stranded seven runners. Burke went 0-4 for the game and stranded three of those base runners.
Vitello is still finagling around with the outfield, something I imagine will continue to happen this season, as he started Jared Dickey in right, Ensley in center and Merritt in right. The lineup combined for 10 Ks, with Dickey and Merritt accounting for four of them.
Maui Ahuna and Christian Moore continue to thrive at the top of the order: Ahuna went 2-4 with an RBI while Moore was 2-3 with a walk. Every Vol who played, other than Ensley and Cal Stark, his sub at DH, struck out at least once in the first game.
Sunday starter Drew Beam at least got out of a couple innings before getting lit up in the series finale. He struck out two of the three batters he faced in the first and worked around a one-out single and two-out walk to finish the first two innings unscathed.
But in the third, things went to pits. Beam sandwiched in a throwing error to first in between two walks (one to the leadoff hitter on four-straight pitches) in the bottom of the third before a single plated the leadoff walk. Mizzou’s six-hole hitter Tre Morris reached first on a throwing error from Christian Moore at second, and the next hitter smacked a double into right-center that scored two more runs. Two errors and two walks in an inning will do that to ya.
Beam ended the day with just 3 IP and surrendered three hits, four runs and four walks. Just more than 50 percent of the pitches Beam threw in the game went for strikes (34/64).
Unfortunately for the Vols, the offense was worse in the second game of the day than the first. The lineup managed one hit, one run and two walks in a combined 22 at bats. Mizzou starter Austin Troesser went 4 and 2⁄3 innings, allowing UT’s only run and walk. He struck out seven, while the Tigers’ two relievers combined for 2.1 IP, with Rorik Maltrud finishing off today’s second game similar to Friday — by striking out three batters in just 1.1 IP.
Seth Halvorsen, Kirby Connell and Camden Sewell all saw some action after Beam, with Halvorsen giving up two runs (one earned) and Connell facing three batters and surrendering a hit, a run and a walk. Sewell was the only Tennessee pitcher to not give up a run in game two of the day, but he did hit two batters and give up a walk.
It’s February baseball, and nobody reasonably expected the Vols to put up the offense numbers they did last year. But during this series, everything was bad. Missouri outscored Tennessee 23-6 in the three-game series, and made the Vols’ All-American pitching staff look like they were throwing batting practice. Burns striking out 12 is always a welcomed sight, and he leads the team with 51 Ks in five starts, but he and Dollander have each given up 12 runs (Beam’s given up 11). If the pitching doesn’t get sorted out, it could be a long year.
For the series, Tennessee committed six errors to Missouri’s two, and the team’s now combined for 14 errors in 21 games. It doesn’t look like any upperclassmen who’s waited his turn is coming to save this team’s offense.
But it’s way early in a long season, so we’ll see how things shake out the rest of the year. Young guys like Dylan Dreiling and Kavares Tears and upperclassmen like Cal Stark and Ethan Payne need to contribute.
I’m sure it was miserable playing in Columbia this weekend — anytime you see a game get moved to the next day because of the cold, well you know it’s gotta be damn cold. I don’t know if that played a role or not.
The Vola return to the friendly confines of LNS for a midweek game against Western Carolina Tuesday before welcoming Texas A&M for the three-game, weekend series.