The Diamond Vols (13-7) dominated Tennessee Tech (10-9) on Tuesday night, defeating the Golden Eagles by a final score of 9-1 behind five different young pitchers.
UT bounced back from a series loss to No. 9 Ole Miss over the weekend, recording 10 hits against five Tennessee Tech pitchers. Despite recording four errors, Tennessee’s pitchers were able to limit the damage, allowing four hits and three walks.
Tennessee’s bats were good for most of the game, but superb in the eighth inning, making this game look like more of a blowout than it actually was. Chris Hall singled to start the game and Nick Senzel reached on an error. Both Hall and Senzel would score later in the inning by way of a Leno Ramirez double. Ramirez performed well in the heart of the order for Tennessee, going 2-for-2 with two doubles, two RBIs and a run scored.
Catcher Benito Santiago was 3-for-4 with an RBI of his own, knocking in Ramirez on a single in the third inning to make it 3-1 Vols.
“We’re taking this as the start of this weekend series (against Alabama), so it was big coming out hot and putting a couple runs across the board,” Ramirez said after the game.
Santiago and Ramirez also started the 8th inning rally that ended in a six run onslaught. Tennessee drew four walks and recorded three hits, including a Vincent Jackson grand slam with two outs.
Despite the scoreline, head coach Dave Serrano said that his team did not have its best night at the plate. “I didn’t think we swung the bat too well until late where they gave us some walks and we took advantage, and then Vincent runs into a ball and it makes it look like its a lopsided game,” he said.
Tennessee had some good performances on the mound following what Serrano called a “disappointing” staff performance this past weekend against Ole Miss. Freshman Daniel Vazquez went three innings, facing 10 batters and allowing just one hit. Lefty Aaron Soto was solid in relief, facing just six batters in two innings, striking out two and keeping the Golden Eagles off the base-paths. The Tennessee pitchers did not give up a single earned run because the one Tennessee Tech run reached base via an error.
Eric Freeman did not have his best outing, giving up a double on the first pitch he threw in the sixth. Freeman loaded the bases in the sixth with no outs in a sequence that Serrano called “bad luck.” The Tennessee right-hander lasted two-thirds of an inning, giving up two hits to four batters faced. Zach Reid slammed the door on the Golden Eagles’ threat, recording a strikeout.
Freshman Will Neely was good once again in relief. The former Hardin Valley standout allowed just one hit in his inning and a third of work. “I think Will continues to grow up,” Serrano said. “Sometimes you forget that he’s a freshman. He picked his defense up when we gave up two errors behind him and that shows a lot of maturity on his part and that he’s starting to look more comfortable.” Closer Jon Lipinski finished off this one in the ninth, allowing just one baserunner on a walk.
Serrano thought the pitching staff did a good job tonight saying, “For the first time in a while they picked up the offense. They kept their pitches to a minimum, it was our first game under three hours.” Serrano gave credit to defense as the key to Tennessee escaping the inning with only one run given up. Jordan Rodgers turned a 3-2 double play to save a run when the bases were loaded in the sixth. “I’ll commend our defense,” Serrano said. “We made four errors but we’ve turned a lot of double plays this year. That really helped out our pitching staff.”
Looking ahead to the weekend, Tennessee faces a tough test on the road against Alabama (13-5), a team that took two out of three from No. 10 LSU over the weekend. “Our biggest challenge is ourself,” Serrano said. “We don’t play our opponent we play ourselves. I have a lot of respect for (Alabama’s) program, and we know we have to go play good baseball over there.”
Serrano said that the Saturday game against the Crimson Tide will feature a several different pitchers, similarly to what the Vols threw against Tennessee Tech on Tuesday. Zach Warren will pitch on Friday and Andy Cox will get the ball on Sunday.
Alabama received the most votes of any team outside the top 25 after its series win against LSU, ranking the Tide as the No. 26 team in the country.