Heading into the final weekend of SEC play, Tennessee’s 14-13 SEC record likely meant the Vols needed to leave South Carolina with at least one win for postseason aspirations.
Starter Andrew Lindsey made sure it happened.
He struck out five over 8.1 IP, and didn’t allow a hit past the third inning. The junior allowed just 3 H, 0 BB and 0 R in his best outing of the season to push the Vols past the South Carolina Gamecocks 5-0 in game one of the weekend series.
Lindsey looked sharp from the jump — through 4 IP, he’d allowed 3 H, 0 BB, 0 R and 4 Ks — needing just 41 pitches to get through the first 13 batters he’d faced.
In the B1, Lindsey induced a fly-ball out to the lead-off hitter, and then struck out the second batter he faced. After that, Lindsey gave up a single to the next Gamecock at the plate. The chicken left the coop on first to steal second but ended up at third when Cal Stark threw the ball into center field, allowing three-hole hitter Cole Messina to advance from first to third on the error.
But Lindsey ended the inning with a swinging strikeout (on what looked like maybe a two-seam fastball that ran inside to the lefty batter). UT’s Twitter said the pitch hit 96 on the gun:
In the second, Lindsey got some help from the defense when Maui Ahuna and Christian Moore turned an inning-ending double play.
The offense stranded a runner each in the first and second inning, which meant Tennessee had stranded 18 runners in the previous 11 innings dating back to last weekend’s double-digit loss to UK in which the bats left 16 runners on base.
SC’s starter Eli Jones Jones gave up two hits, no walks and no runs through 2 IP, but in the third, he started a streak of lead-off walks in two-straight innings. The Vols took advantage.
Christian Scott drew the lead-off free pass on a full-count, Cal Stark struck out and then Scott stole second. Maui Ahuna also patiently waited out another full-count walk, and Hunter Ensley put up the first run of the game on a single to right that scored Scott. UT doesn’t run much on offense, but Scott’s stolen base got him into scoring position for Ensley’s RBI.
Tennessee wasted the final two outs, even with a Griffin Merritt walk, but after the T3, the Vols led 1-0.
In the bottom of the third, Lindsey gave up a one-out single, but UT got the second out of the bottom of the frame when Cal Stark threw out nine-hole hitter Evan Stone who was trying to make it into scoring position. Lindsey promptly tossed a 97-MPH heater on a full-count for his fifth K on Gamecock lead-off hitter Dylan Brewer.
Jones’ second lead-off walk in the T4 also cost him, just like in the third inning. It was Zane Denton who drew a full-count walk to kick off the fourth, and then freshman Dylan Dreiling made Jones pay with his seventh home run on a two-run shot to left-center on the first pitch of his at bat.
I’ve touched on this before, but Dreiling was a three-star and the sixth-highest rated recruited player in UT’s 2022 recruiting class. He’s hitting .315 in 43 games played while playing good defense in the outfield.
Christian Scott and Maui Ahuna both singled — with a Cal Stark K in between — setting up Hunter Ensley for an RBI single to center. Ensley’s another young-ish (RS sophomore) piece to the team who’s had a nice season, slashing .292/ .458/ .410 while playing elite defense in center field that’s been displayed by multiple diving catches during the year. He’s got zero errors in 84 putouts while playing in 46 games.
After three runs and four hits in the B4, Tennessee stretched its lead out to 4-0.
Lindsey might as well have been on a $ million yacht the way he cruised through the Gamecock lineup, as he strung together single-digit pitch frames in the third-through fifth innings and had retired 13-strait batters by the bottom of the seventh.
The Vols added a run in the sixth, with some considerable help from SC reliever Brett Thomas. Scott took a four-pitch walk, then advanced to third on two wild pitches from Thomas to Cal Stark. Stark and Ahuna were both retired via K, leaving Scott on third with two outs. But, again, Ensley came through with a single to third that scored Scott.
Ensley ended up on third thanks to a missed pickoff and another wild pitch, then Blake Burke walked. But with two on and two outs, Merritt took the second pitch he saw and grounded out to the pitcher for the final out of the half-inning.
With one hit, one error, two walks and three wild pitches, UT added one run to its lead, making it a 5-0 game after 5.5 innings.
Lindsey ended the Gamecocks B6 before it really started with a 10-pitch inning and his fifth strikeout of the game.
By the end of the eighth inning, Lindsey had sat down 16 batters in a row, facing 25 batters in a row — one over the minimum — while he allowed just three hits and zero walks on 97 pitches.
Starting the top of the ninth with a 5-0 lead, Christian Moore singled into left and subsequently attempted to steal second but got thrown out at second as he slid past the bag and got called out for sliding past the bag. Moore was the second Vol to get caught stealing in the game. Zane Denton struck out, Dreiling drew a full-count walk, but then Scott struck out to end the inning on three pitches. Despite a hit and a walk, the Vols didn’t add any insurance runs for Lindsey going into the final three outs of the game.
After getting one out in the ninth, Vitello elected to bring Aaron Combs out to get the final two outs, and he struck both batters out on three pitches each.
After all the finagling that’s gone on with the schedule for this weekend’s series, the two teams plan to play a doubleheader tomorrow to finish out the regular season. Game two’s first pitch is scheduled for 2 PM EST, and game 3 is slated to start at 5 PM EST.
- If my communication degree math is correct, it’s been 11 games since Blake Burke hit a home run. He went 0-4 today with one strikeout. He did register one walk
- The only other two starting Vols to not record a hit today were Zane Denton and Cal Stark. Denton went 0-4, and Stark went 0-3, though they each drew one walk
- The top of the lineup didn’t have its best night — outside of Hunter Ensley’s 4-5, 3 RBI performance: Ahuna went 1-5 with a walk and a strikeout; Merritt had a double as his only hit on a 1-4 outing, though he drew a walk and scored a run; Christian Moore had maybe the worst performance of the group near the top of the order with a single and 3 Ks on his 1-5 game. Ahuna (3), Merritt (4) and Moore (3) combined to strand 10 of UT’s 12 total runners stranded
- I know we touched on it earlier, but what a marvelous outing for Andrew Lindsey. He threw a season-high 8.1 innings on just 103 pitches, 68 of which were strikes. He tied his career-bests with zero-runs allowed and zero walks given up while he set a new season-high in pitches thrown in a game. His fastball location was immaculate, with numerous 97-98 MPH heaters on the corners