The 13th ranked Tennessee Volunteers baseball team (15-3) opened up Southeastern Conference play Friday night in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs (13-3). Chad Dallas (2-0) was the starting pitcher in game one for Tennessee. In pursuit of his 100th career win, Tony Vitello’s Vols put on a strong performance.
The aforementioned Dallas ultimately pitched 6.1 innings, allowing nine hits and all of Georgia’s six runs. Despite that, he would be credited with the win – his third of the year – thanks to a potent offensive night. Sean Hunley pitched 2.2 clean innings in relief, not surrendering a hit or a run, while striking out four.
Tennessee did the majority of its work in the first half of the game, beginning with a Liam Spence solo home run (2) to give the Vols a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. In the third, Tennessee would add a pair, thanks to a Jake Rucker RBI single, followed by a Jordan Beck RBI single, positioning the Vols with a 3-0 lead.
By the end of the fourth inning, Tennessee would control a commanding 9-0 lead. Spence and Pete Derkay both walked in a run; Rucker then followed that up with a grand slam, his second home run of the year.
A single and a groundout in the fifth enabled Georgia to score its first two runs of the game, bringing them within seven and making it a 9-2 game.
Another bases loaded walk in the sixth gave Tennessee its 10th run of the night; the Bulldogs would plate three in the bottom half of the inning – two coming off a double and one coming off a single. In the bottom of the seventh, a wild pitch scored Georgia final tally of the night, 10-6 going into the eighth inning.
The Vols scored their final run when Spence doubled in Connor Pavolony in the top of the eighth inning, which would result in an 11-6 final score, pushing Tennessee to a 16-3 record on the season.
Game two started off on the right foot Saturday afternoon. Fresh off Vitello’s 100th win, Tennessee looked to keep the ball rolling. Will Heflin got the start on the mound, ultimately totaling 3.1 innings pitched, allowing five hits and run. Two runs were charged to Mark McLaughlin in relief, while Kirby Connell would a scoreless 1.2 innings. Redmond Walsh (2-1) would contribute 1.1 innings and would ultimately take the loss after Georgia plated two runs, both unearned.
A Drew Gilbert single in the first gave the Vols their first run, before a bases loaded walk drawn by Luc Lipcius scored the second. Heading into the next inning, Tennessee held a narrow 2-0 lead.
In the third, Georgia would strike back for its first run of the game: A Cole Tate sacrifice fly cut the Vols’ lead in half, 2-1.
A few innings would pass before another run crossed. In the bottom of the sixth, Georgia’s King doubled to left to tie the game. A subsequent single plated one run to give the Bulldogs the lead; it would’ve been two runs but King was gunned down at the plate on a throw from Jordan Beck in right.
In the seventh, a Jake Rucker home run (3) with a runner on base gave Tennessee the lead once again, making it 4-3.
But Georgia was able to walk it off in the ninth when Tate singled to left, which plated two runs, securing the Bulldogs’ 5-4 victory.
Tennessee entered game three win a 16-4 (1-1) record, while Georgia entered with a 14-4 (1-1) record.
Looking to secure an SEC series victory, the Vols took the field again Sunday afternoon. Blade Tidwell was given the starting assignment and he didn’t disappoint. Tidwell managed 7.1 innings, allowing four hits, one run, walked a pair, and struck out six. His performance positioned him in line for the win, his third of the season. Camden Sewell earned the save for 1.1 innings of work, his first of the year.
Beck got the scoring started in the first inning when he was able to reach on a fielder’s choice and brought a run in on the play, making it a 1-0 game.
In the fourth, Tennessee got a little help from Bulldog pitching when Lipcius scored on a wild pitch, extending the Vol lead to 2-0. Also in the fourth, a Gilbert single plated another run, staking Tennessee to a 3-0 advantage as the contest neared the halfway point.
Georgia got its first and only run of the game in the sixth inning on a groundout that scored a run. That brought the Bulldogs within two, but that’s as close as they’d get.
Tennessee added a final insurance run in the ninth inning with a sacrifice fly that scored Pavolony.
At game’s end, Tennessee had improved its record to 17-4 (2-1), while Georgia fell to 14-5 (1-2). Tennessee heads out-of-conference once again for a single game midweek against Eastern Kentucky. That game will be played at Lindsey Nelson Stadium Tuesday night with first pitch scheduled for 6:30. The Vols will host their first SEC opponent of the year when the 19th ranked LSU Tigers comes to town for a weekend series, with games set to begin at 6:30, 6:00, and 1:00.