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Vols vs. Maryland: Vols Avoid Sweep, Get Vitello’s 1st Win

Photo By Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee didn’t have much offense at all in its first two games against Maryland. And then all at once, the bats caught fire.

Things weren’t looking good for Tennessee in the first inning. Will Neely gave up three runs in the first inning before recording an out. After two home runs in the first frame, it looked like UT was heading toward a sweep to start out the Tony Vitello era.

But the Vols would explode with a ton of offense in the bottom half.

Three straight RBI doubles by the Vols’ two-through-four hitters gave Tennessee the lead. Then Wyatt Stapp knocked in Pete Derkay for his first career RBI to extend the lead.

The second inning was a similar story. Three straight walks loaded the bases with no outs, setting the table for an Andre Lipcius grand slam. But the Vols still weren’t done. Nico Mascia singled up the middle later in the inning to bring home Benito Santiago. That made it 10-3 Tennessee.

The Vols continued to pour it on late, adding three more runs by the end of the night and ultimately winning by a score of 13-6.

“I think they just kind of came out of their shell,” head coach Tony Vitello said of the Vols’ offensive explosion. “It actually helped us when they scored in the first inning because it relieved any tension that our guys had. I know that we can’t put up 13 runs every game, though.

“But I’ll take the effort we had in Game 3.”

And with that, Vitello earned his first win as Tennessee’s head coach.

“It feels good to get it out of the way,” Vitello said of his first win. “You’d like to get all the funny business out of the way, which we did this weekend, and just go out and play ball and focus on the things we need to get better at. And there’s plenty from this weekend we need to get better at.”

Neely bounced back fairly well after three runs to start the game. It wasn’t his best outing, but the Vols found a way to get him off the hook.

“He’s a high character guy, and he brings that character to the mound and pitches with conviction,” Vitello stated. “Between he and Benoit, we had a nice sandwich there. I’m not sure about the guys in between right now, but between them, we had a nice sandwich.”

The Vols improved to 1-2 with the win, and Vitello knows there’s still plenty of work to be done after this weekend. But getting the final win in the series at least leaves the team with a better taste in their mouth.

“I think they showed some resiliency there,” Vitello said of his team. “I don’t think there was any quit to them on Friday night either. They handled the situation in Game 2 just fine too. Overall they showed some resiliency, but we just had a conversation about some things that need to change.

“There are still some little things that all add up that winning programs do, and I don’t know if we’re halfway there yet.”

Game Two: Maryland 10, Tennessee 4

Tennessee (0-2) dropped the first of two games against Maryland (2-0) on Sunday afternoon. The Terps pulled away late en route to a 10-4 win. They’ll play again at 4 pm this afternoon.

Maryland never led until the ninth inning.  That’s because the early story was Tennessee pitcher Garrett Stallings. The sophomore gave up just three hits on 50 pitches in his season debut. He had to exit the game with two outs in the fifth when he took a line drive to his throwing arm.

After he left the game, the Terrapins finally got on the board. Maryland scored its first run off a Richard Jackson wild pitch, tying the game at one.

In the first inning, an unlikely source provided the first run of the season for the Vols. Sophomore left fielder Jay Charleston led off with a home run, the first of his career. It came on the ninth pitch of the at bat.

But after the Terrapins tied it in the sixth, things got interesting.

Tennessee responded with a run in the sixth to take the lead. Then Maryland scored another in the seventh. Then UT scored two in the bottom half to take a 4-2 lead. And then two runs for Maryland in the eighth to tie it again.

The Vols didn’t have an answer in the bottom half. Benito Santiago singled to lead off the inning, but was caught in a 4-6-3 double play a few pitches later.

Maryland, however, wasn’t done. Kevin Biondic tripled to lead off the ninth against UT’s Connor Darling. Then Justin Morris walked. Leadoff hitter Marty Costes brought them both in with a 2-run double to right center to take control of the game.

Then things went from bad to worse. Darling gave up six earned runs in the ninth, giving Maryland a large advantage heading into the bottom half. The Vols were retired in order to finish the game.

Game One: Maryland 4, Tennessee 0

Tennessee dropped its first game of the season on Friday night to Maryland, managing just six hits in the 4-0 loss.  Maryland starter Taylor Bloom confused Tennessee’s hitters all night, spoiling Tony Vitello’s head coaching debut.

At the plate, Vitello said his team was timid. And when four players make their career debut in the same game, that’s bound to happen.

“At the plate, the attitude needs to change,” Vitello said after the game. “If you go to the plate not expecting success and just hoping, you’re going to do a lot of hoping as you walk back to the dugout, and that’s what we had tonight. That’s the main theme.”

Other than a Jay Charleston infield single and a Wyatt Stapp blooper, the Vols couldn’t get anything going. In the seventh, Benito Santiago hit a hard single to lead off the inning. Then Stapp moved him to second with a two out base hit. But pinch-hitter Nico Mascia flew out to center.

That was the biggest threat the Vols had all night against Bloom.

Maryland Nick Dunn was the difference for the Terrapins. The preseason All-American hit two solo home runs off Linginfelter and Crochet. On a night where the Tennessee pitching staff wasn’t bad, Dunn sill made them pay for a few mistakes.

Vitello said his pitchers can take some confidence that most of the damage was done by one player. But that still doesn’t count for much in the win column.

Overall, Vitello was pleased with how his pitchers performed. Especially his freshman relief pitchers, Chase Wallace and Garrett Crochet.

“I thought they did great,” Vitello said. “Really good stuff. (Chase Wallace) is going to be a dynamite pitcher for us. He’s got a steep incline of improvement that we’ll see. Garrett Crochet is going to be a superstar. He’s just got to learn to locate pitches in a couple of different situations.”

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