For the first time since 2007, Tennessee (17-12, 3-9 SEC) went to Gainesville and came out with a series win against the Florida Gators (21-11, 6-6 SEC).
But you wouldn’t have seen this coming based on both teams’ recent performances.
Here’s three observations from the Vols’ huge win against No. 7 Florida:
New Look Pitching Staff Pays Off:
When Tennessee pitches well, they can beat anybody in the country. Dave Serrano’s staff proved that over the weekend.
It all started with Hunter Martin’s start on Friday night. Martin lasted for the longest outing in his career, throwing into the eighth inning. Martin gave up five runs, but lasted long enough to give the Vols a chance to win. When Zach Linginfelter took the ball, UT was in the game in the eighth inning. That hasn’t happened often in SEC play this year.
Freshman Garrett Stallings got the ball on Saturday. He also had a career long outing, lasting 6.1 innings. The Gators put ten hits on Stallings, but the freshman limited damage well. The highly touted freshman only gave up two runs.
Linginfelter started on Sunday, lasting into the third inning. The luxury Serrano has with his younger rotation is veterans out of the bullpen. Zach Warren and Eric Freeman kept Tennessee in the game, holding scoreless in the game’s final five innings.
When Tennessee’s pitchers control their stuff, the elite “stuff” shows. Talent has never been the issue with this group, but consistency just hasn’t been there. The confidence gained over the weekend could make a huge impact for the Vols down the stretch.
Balanced Batting Order:
Last season, Tennessee relied on Nick Senzel to carry the offense. This season, the Vols aren’t putting too much pressure on one or two guys to do all of the hitting.
Freshmen Andre Lipcius, Justin Ammons and Pete Derkay all had good numbers against the Gators. It was Ammons who scored from first in the tenth inning to give UT the win on Saturday.
Lipcius (3-for-5) scored twice in the series opener and added an RBI in game two. Derkay was 2-for-3 with an RBI on Sunday. Junior catcher Benito Santiago produced consistently in the clean up spot.
As young as Serrano’s lineup is, they came up big in the clutch all weekend. Jeff Moberg has hit safely in 13 straight games, but now he has help further down the lineup to move him around the base path.
Jon Lipinski Has Become an Elite Closer:
Lipinski shut the door on Florida with no drama in the series’ first two games. The Florida native has been reliable all season long for Tennessee in 2017. The senior has only given up one run in 15 innings of work.
Hitters are only hitting .140 against the UT closer.
Now that the Vols’ bullpen is giving UT a chance late in games, Serrano can feel good about using Lipinski on multiple occasions in a series to preserve a lead. After a rough junior season, Lipinski has had the biggest turnaround of anyone on this roster in 2017. He had a 5.40 ERA last season, allowing a .300 average to opposing hitters.
Lipinski should have more chances to record saves as Tennessee starts to show signs of progress near the halfway point of conference play.
The Vols host No. 11 Auburn in Knoxville for a three game series this weekend.