A tough one.
No. 1 Arkansas. No. 4 Tennessee. A full-capacity crowd at Lindsey Nelson Stadium — the atmosphere couldn’t get any better on Friday night in Knoxville. The Volunteers were looking to make a statement and take the overall lead in the SEC standings, and they got this one rolling with some fireworks.
Tennessee was off and running early. A Jake Rucker double scored two runs to kick things off on Friday night as the Volunteers got after Arkansas starter Patrick Wicklander. Jordan Beck added three more with a first inning homerun, pushing the Tennessee lead to 5-0 right out of the gates.
Arkansas would answer with a two-run dinger from Robert Moore in the second inning, slashing the Tennessee lead to 5-2. The Razorbacks added another two runs with another homerun in the third, this time coming off of the bat of Brady Slavens.
Tennessee loaded the bases in the bottom of the third, looking to build back their lead. Liam Spence was tasked with the job, but Arkansas reliever Caden Monke was able to draw a ground out to dance out of trouble.
A wild first three innings left the scoreboard reading Tennessee 5, Arkansas 4.
Tennessee starter Chad Dallas ran into more trouble in the top of the fifth. It was Cayden Wallace driving in a run with a single, evening the score up at five all. Brady Slavens singled to follow, loading the bases. Tennessee manager Tony Vitello pulled Dallas for Sean Hunley, trusting his bullpen in a big spot.
Hunley delivered with back to back strikeouts to end the threat. He followed that up by breezing through the sixth and seventh innings with ease.
Slavens had the Razorbacks threatening once more in the eighth inning, leading off with a double. A wild pitch moved him over to third, with no outs. He would later score on a sacrifice fly, giving Arkansas their first lead on the night at 6-5.
Tennessee suddenly had just six outs left to make something happen. The Vols couldn’t do anything with a two-out double, as Spence struck out swinging, and onto the ninth we went.
The Vols shut the Razorbacks down in the top half of the inning, but needed the bats to wake up quickly in the bottom half. Unfortunately for Tennessee, a couple of warning track shots fell just short of changing the outcome of this ball game.
Arkansas reliever Kevin Kopps was too much to handle, pitching three innings of relief and giving up just one hit to end it.
Tennessee and Arkansas are back in action on Saturday, with the first pitch scheduled for 12 p.m. ET.