Despite shaking up the pitching rotation and the batting order, Tennessee scattered six hits, stranded six runners and made three errors, while Arkansas scored runs in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings to take game one of the series 5-2.
Last year, the starting rotation stayed the same all season, Chase Burns in game one, Chase Dollander in game two and Drew Beam in game three.
Burns’ struggles, particularly in league play, have hurt the team, and Tony Vitello shook things up tonight by starting Andrew Lindsey, one the team’s most effective relievers who’s had starter experience in the past (he was a starter for Charlotte in 2021). Vitello also tinkered with the batting order:
And with all the changes, the game tilted Tennessee’s favor early, which has been atypical at times in SEC play this season. But tonight, Jared Dickey led off the top of the first with a home run, hitting in that one-spot of the order that he excelled in:
The Vols added one more in the T1, when Christian Moore and Griffin Merritt each smacked base hits after Dickey’s long ball. Moore ended up scoring on a balk, and then Hunter Ensley struck out swinging to leave a man in scoring position.
Then Lindsey took the Hogs down in order, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
These are the kinda pitches that earned Lindsey the start tonight, as there’s no question he’s got the “stuff.” The spin rates on his pitches are MLB-level, and he’s got enough heat on the fastball to make it all work.
Unfortunately — the bats went quiet after the first. UT scattered five hits from the second to the seventh inning and didn’t turn any of them into runs. Hunter Ensley had the only extra-base hit, with a double in the top of the 6th.
In the B2, Lindsey gave up a single to the first batter of the inning, but then went and got Ks on two of the frame’s three outs.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, the train started going off the tracks in the B3.
Arkansas’ eight-hole hitter Parker Rowland led off the inning with a single. Shortstop and the last batter in the lineup, John Bolton, reached on a fielder’s choice while Rowland advanced to third on a fielding error by Vols’ shortstop Maui Ahuna. Rowland scored on Tennessee’s second error of the inning, when stole he stole second and Cal Stark, starting at catcher since Dickey was in left, made a throwing error attempting to get Bolton at second base.
Naturally, Arkansas’ leadoff hitter Tavian Josenberger cleared the bases with a two-run home run. Lindsey managed to finish the inning, but Tennessee’s two-run lead turned into a 3-2 deficit.
In the B4, Christian Moore made a throwing error on the first batter, allowing Hogs’ first baseman Brady Slavens to reach base safely on a play that should have been the first out of the inning. The next hitter singled, and Lindsey’s night was done, with a final line of 3 IP, 4 R, 4 H, two earned runs, five Ks and no walks. 41 of his 58 pitches went for strikes.
Vitello turned to veteran reliever Kirby Connell, but Connell walked the first batter he faced, and then got a bases-loaded double play that plated another run for Arkansas. After the double play, Vitello went to Seth Halvorsen to get the final out of the fourth inning. Hogs up 4-2 after four innings.
Halvorsen gave up a solo home run in the B5, but stopped the bleeding, holding the Hogs to scoreless in his three innings of work. His final line for the night: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB and 3 Ks.
Arkansas starter Hunter Hollan gave up the two runs in the first, but nothing else in the five other innings he pitched. He finished with 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R (one earned), 2 BB and 6 Ks.
Dave Van Horne went to Hagen Smith for the game’s final three innings, and Smith struck out six of the first seven batters he faced. In the bottom of the 9th, Ahuna reached on a two-out single, but Smith ended the game with a looking strikeout from Cal Start. Smith earned a brilliant, three-inning save with seven Ks, and Arkansas took game one with a 5-2 final score.
- Tennessee’s final offensive line: six hits, two runs, three errors and six runners stranded
- Jared Dickey was the only Vol with more than one hit
- Every Vol struck out atleast once, and Moore, Griffin Merritt, Zane Denton and Stark all struck out two times each
- Blake Burke, Denton, Stark and Scott all went hitless, as Tennessee continues to get nothing from the bottom of the lineup, except on the occasions when Denton might hit seventh and smack a homer
- At some point, the Vols need Maui Ahuna’s bat to wake up. He hit nearly .400 last year with Kansas, but with a 1-4 night hitting seventh, his average dropped to .284 with just two multi-hit games so far in SEC play
- Vitello obviously needed to make a change with the starters, as neither Chase Dollander or, especially, Chase Burns have looked this season like they looked last year. I’d imagine the decision came down to starting Lindsey or Halvorsen tonight, as both have been relievers for Tennessee but have previous starting experience. Both options had their downsides, as Lindsey took all of 2022 off from baseball, and Halvorsen’s 2022 season was stamped out due to injury
- Moore, Stark and Ahuna accounted for the Vols’ three errors, and the Vols have now made 29 errors in 34 games. Their fielding percentage is sitting around .970-.975-ish, which ranks them somewhere in the high 50s, low 60s nationally
- I’d expect Drew Beam to get the ball tomorrow, especially after he looked so good in the Sunday finale against Florida last week, going 7 innings, striking out 10 and allowing just two runs and one walk
- With the loss, UT fell to 5-8 in SEC play and hasn’t won the first game of a series in league play to date
First-pitch is scheduled for 7 PM EST Saturday.