Another series loss in SEC play, an embarrassing upset loss to Tennessee Tech in the mid-week. Things aren’t going too well for Tennessee baseball right now. No time for rest, either, as No. 2 Vanderbilt comes to town for the weekend.
The Vols have seen their NCAA Tournament standing move to shaky ground in recent weeks. They badly needed some momentum back on their side this weekend, and on Friday night, they just might have found some.
Zane Denton got things going for Tennessee in the second inning, sending one over the fence to give the Volunteers an early 1-0 lead. That advantage didn’t hold long, as Vanderbilt scored two in the top of the third.
Tennessee starter Andrew Lindsey nearly danced out of trouble, but RJ Schreck found some two-out magic to give the Commodores the lead at 2-1.
Lindsey would find more trouble in the top of the fifth. A double followed by a bunt single put runners on the corners, and a groundout would plate another run for the ‘Dores. After an intentional walk and a traditional walk, Vandy had the bases loaded and ready to blow this one wide open. Thankfully for Tennessee, Lindsey was able to work out of it. His ninth strikeout of the night was easily his biggest, keeping Tennessee alive.
The Volunteers left two men on base in the bottom of the fifth, and they couldn’t get anything going in the sixth.
Lindsey’s night would end after 6.2 innings. He finished with ten strikeouts, surrendering three earned runs on the night. Vanderbilt starter Carter Holton’s night ended after six innings. He struck out six and gave up just the one homerun early, coming up big in key spots.
Entering the bottom of the eighth, Tennessee still trailed 3-1 — desperately needing to make something happen. The only issue? Vanderbilt turned to lights-out reliever Nick Maldonado.
Vanderbilt gifted Tennessee a baserunner after an error, but the Volunteers were unable to do anything with it. Blake Burke lined out to center, and Christian Moore went down swinging.
Bottom of the ninth — do or die — Tennessee found their answer. Two solo shots tied this game at 3-3, as both Kavares Tears and Dylan Dreiling left the yard. To extras we went.
Chase Burns took over on the mound for Tennessee, and breezed through the top of the tenth. Jared Dickey got the bottom of the tenth started with a double that was nearly a homerun. The Volunteers were peppering Maldonado, who entered the night nearly untouchable on the statsheet. Two on and two out, Kavares Tears couldn’t replicate his previous at bat. He went down on strikes, taking us to the 11th.
Burns got through the 11th and 12th with no issue, then Griffin Merritt walked us off. Merritt entered the game as a pinch hitter late, and he drove one to right center to end it.
THIS IS TENNESSEE BASEBALL pic.twitter.com/zCm5sJBPGz— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 22, 2023
Final score: Tennessee 4, Vanderbilt 3
Things weren’t looking good to open the ninth, but Tennessee found a way. The Vols aren’t quite in must-win territory, but they were getting pretty darn close to it. Getting this one to start the series changes the entire feel of the weekend, perhaps giving Tennessee the spark they need to start a bit of a run.
Game two is set for tomorrow at noon ET. ESPN2 will have the coverage.