Kentucky’s bats jumped on Tennessee starter Drew Beam for four runs in the first two innings, and despite the Vols knocking eight hits and drawing seven walks, UT failed to score a run after scoring 20 in the first two games of the weekend as the Wildcats took game three 10-0 to dodge the series sweep.
Beam lasted just 1.2 IP, allowing three hits and four runs in the first, including a home run from Kentucky’s Hunter Gilliam and a run-scoring double from catcher Devin Burkes. He didn’t help himself with his third error of the season on a failed pick-off attempt after Jackson Gray’s lead-off single.
Tennessee’s sophomore right-hander got one out in the second before giving up another home run to the last hitter of UK’s lineup — Grant Smith. Vitello let Beam get Kentucky lead-off hitter Jackson Gray out, but Beam walked Ryan Waldschmidt and Tony went to the bullpen for freshman AJ Russell.
Russell finished the second and then struck out two of the four batters he faced — after allowing a lead-off single — to put a zero on the board for UK in the third.
In the bottom half of the third, the weather set in, and both teams were pulled off the field for a nearly two-hour rain delay. The Vols had stranded a runner in the first and two runners in the second, but even after the lightning left the area, the rain hung around and seemed to affect balls hit into the outfield.
I’m not making any excuses for Tennessee’s poor offensive outing — because the Wildcats went for back-to-back home runs in the top of the eighth — but it looked like the Vols hit some balls that might have left the yard on a sunny day.
Overall, UT stranded runners in every inning of the game, totaling 17 men on base that Tennessee couldn’t manage to get across home plate. The Vols hit just 3-18 with men on base and 2-9 with runners in scoring position.
The Cats used two pitchers in the first three innings — starter Zack Lee and reliever Evan Byers combined to get nine outs, allowing four total hits and a walk. But after the rain delay, they went with Darren Williams, who ended up with a wild stat line for a winning pitcher: 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 4Ks and two wild pitches.
The Vols needed six pitchers to get through today’s game, and Seth Halvorsen led the way in innings pitched with 4.1. He struck out six but gave up three runs to the 17 batters he faced. In fact, each Tennessee pitcher allowed at least one run except for Russell and Hollis Fanning, who gave up two hits but got the final Wildcat out in the top of the ninth.
Kentucky stole nine bases in this weekend’s three-game series to Tennessee’s one.
Zane Denton and Hunter Ensley were the only two Vols who managed more than one base hit as they each went 2-4 on the day. Blake Burke’s struggles continued with an 0-5 outing today — he hit a combined 2-10 through the weekend.
Even with the loss today, UT improved its SEC record to 14-12 as it still took the series win.
Tennessee gets Belmont at home on Tuesday as the final home game of the season before traveling to Columbia to play South Carolina next weekend. The Gamecocks are coming off a 2-1 series loss to Arkansas this weekend and are 1-6 in their last seven games.