Final Four Preview
NASHVILLE, Tn — Tennessee improved to 25-1 (8-0 SEC) Saturday night claiming the weekend series over arch rival Vanderbilt.
The Vols jumped out to a three-run lead in the first inning and never looked back as their pitching staff continued their elite season.
Here are notes and quotes from the win.
– Chase Dollander laughed when asked if this team remembers what it’s like to be trailing, but it’s been a long time since they experienced it. The last time the Big Orange trailed was on March 13 against Rhode Island.
The Vols kept that theme rolling on Saturday, taking advantage of Vanderbilt mistakes to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning. That was plenty for this Tennessee pitching staff as the Vols have now led for 107 straight innings.
– Dollander was pretty dominant in last week’s start at Ole Miss, fanning 10 Rebels while posting 6.1 scoreless innings.
Tony Vitello and Dollander both said he was better tonight against Vanderbilt. The sophomore retired the first 12 batters he faced on his way to allowing just two runs in eight innings. While the Georgia Southern transfer didn’t strikeout double-digit batters, he had his most efficient outing going deeper in the game than he has all season.
– Maybe the only chink in Tennessee’s armor this season has been some careless defensive mistakes. The Vols were fantastic defensively on Saturday night. Trey Lipscomb made the best defensive play I’ve seen from a Vol all year, Cortland Lawson and Jorel Ortega were steady up the middle and Luc Lipcius’ defense continues to be one of the most underrated parts of this team.
While Lipscomb’s play was elite, two defensive plays stand above the rest in terms of importance. Leading off the eighth inning, Dollander fielded a near-perfect Jack Bulgar bunt and made the throw in time.
Then in the ninth inning Tennessee did the seemingly impossible, turning a double play against Vanderbilt speedster Enrique Bradfield Jr. That effectively ended the game.
– It was Redmond Walsh who threw the pitch that got the Brafield double play ball as the super senior reliever earned his fourth save of the season. Walsh became the second Tennessee player to reach 20-career saves and is only three saves away from tying Todd Helton’s program record.
– Tennessee’s bats were quiet for much of the night but Jordan Beck and Trey Lipscomb were both fantastic. The first of two hits from Beck was a double roped into the gap scoring the first run of the game.
Lipscomb went three-of-four at the plate with a two-run home run that gave Tennessee some much needed breathing room.
– The win marks Tennessee’s first series win over Vanderbilt since 2017, its first series win in Nashville since 2009 and its 8-0 start in conference play ties the program record.
Tony Vitello on what he saw from Chase Dollander
“He was better than last week which is hard to do. You’re in Oxford, tough place to play and Mississippi’s lineup — particularly when they are healthy I know they were missing a few guys last week — is still dangerous. … (Vanderbilt) is about as balanced as a lineup as you’re going to face. In our best dreams or whatever, I don’t know that you are going to see an outing like that out of any of our guys. He put it together. No disrespect to Frank calling pitches, but he kind of made it light work for us in the dugout.”
Vitello on keeping Dollander in to start the ninth inning
“It’s a Catch 22. And we don’t know the answer until you run the guy out there. Or maybe he could’ve wiggled out of that thing. But he finished the inning in such emphatic fashion. We probably should’ve let his day be done. But at the same time, you’ve got the catcher running in the dugout and I’m seeing with my eyes that this guy is still rocking and rolling pretty good. You know, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to ask what Vanderbilt is thinking over there. I’m sure they were wanting him to be taken out of the game. At least I would be if I were in their shoes, because of the manner in which he was throwing the ball. That’s a tough one. To be honest with you, we were going to go to Redmond (Walsh) at the top of the order regardless. But we let him go face Young. It’s a one-pitch battle and I guess he would regret two pitches. He didn’t let that last one go. But I think we can give him a mulligan there because he threw about 98 pitches with conviction and they all had stuff to them that would be tough for Minor League teams to hit.”
Vitello on winning the first series in Nashville since 2009
“Those 20 years (for Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin) have been pretty dang good. I think you have to put it into perspective. If we’re going to pull out swords and go up against every team in the league, including the school I came from, I mean an actual sword, if you’re going to compare, we ain’t going to win that battle. But it’s here and now. Fortunately today we were the better team. And tomorrow it’s a new day. You can call it the third game in the series, you can call it whatever you want. Sunday, I don’t even know what time the game starts tomorrow, but it’s one game tomorrow. You find out who is better on that given day. Again, it feels good to win this series. But I think that other stuff is kind of for you guys to write about.”
Chase Dollander on if he thinks he was better this week than last
“I’d have to agree. I don’t think my stuff was better, I just think I was getting more swings and misses with my fastball than I have in the last couple outings. That played off everything else and I was able to land my curveball today which is a huge thing.”
Dollander on if there was a moment where he had complete confidence in himself at this level
“I’d have to say after Baylor. After the Baylor outing I was like ‘I’m not going to let that happen again.’ and it’s just something I’ve been able to do for the past couple weeks. I’m really happy about it.”