No. 11 Tennessee baseball got back in the win column on Saturday afternoon with a 3-1 victory over Wright State to even the three-game series at one game apiece.
After losing Friday night’s affair, Garrett Crochet made his season debut on the mound to inject a shot of energy into the club. The junior southpaw pitched 3.1 scoreless innings of work, striking out six batters on 42 pitches. Crochet didn’t allow a walk and gave up just two hits.
“There were a little nerves in the bullpen pre-game,” Crochet said following the game. “I felt strong out there.
“I felt like I kept everybody off-balance for a majority of my pitches. My curveball and slider were really good, as well as my fastball.”
Crochet missed the first three weekends of the season due to left shoulder soreness. The Vols’ ace likely could have pitched if UT absolutely needed him to, but because of his high draft stock, Tennessee took a cautious approach in working Crochet back into the mix.
“I felt good,” Crochet said. “It felt good to finally contribute to the team. Coming off a loss, I knew we were going to come back ready to play today. I was just glad that I got the ball.”
Jackson Leath relieved Crochet in the fourth inning and was just as dominant. Leath improved to 4-0 on the season behind 4.2 innings of work. The junior right-hander allowed one run, though it wasn’t earned, on four hits and two walks.
Leath had to work out of trouble in the seventh and eighth innings. In the seventh, Wright State left two runners on following a single and a walk as Leath got out of the inning with a ground ball. He allowed a run in the eighth on a throwing error while trying to pick off the runner on first, but just like he did in the previous inning, Leath got a ground ball to get out of the inning with the potential game-tying run on second.
“He’s (Leath) got stuff he can go to when it gets a little hairy for him,” Vitello said. “They took pretty good swings off of him at times, but he never really got in that consistent rhythm. When he is in that rhythm, it’s really fun to watch.”
Tennessee (14-1) struggled to hit with runners on base for the second consecutive day. After hitting 3-for-16 with runners on during Friday night’s game, the Vols were just 2-for-15 on Saturday.
Wright State starter Bradley Brehmer (L, 0-4) scattered six hits across 5.1 innings of work. Brehmer didn’t allow a walk and struck out three. His only run allowed came on a Max Ferguson solo home run to give Tennessee a 1-0 lead in the third inning.
Tennessee hit its second solo home run of the day in the seventh inning. Liam Spence’s first home run of the season extended the Vols’ lead to 2-1.
Wright State cut into the Tennessee lead in the eighth inning on Leath’s throwing error. With runners on the corners, Leath attempted to pick-off the runner on first, but he threw it away, which allowed the runner to score from third and cut the deficient to one. It also allowed the potential game-tying run to advance to the second. Leath promptly forced a ground ball to end the threat.
The Vols got the run back in the bottom half of the eighth. With runners on first and second following back-to-back walks, freshman Drew Gilbert hit an RBI single up the middle to extend the Tennessee lead to 3-1.
“He’s a winner,” Vitello said of Gilbert. “In that situation, he found a way to help us win.”
Tennessee and Wright State will hit the field on Sunday afternoon for the decisive series finale. Junior right-hander Chase Wallace is expected to start on the mound for the Vols. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.