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Tennessee Capitalizes On Vanderbilt Mistakes, Takes Series Opener

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NASHVILLE, Tn — Tennessee made a major mistake when it used a bat lacking the sticker marking an approved bat in the first inning of Friday’s, 6-2, series opening win at Vanderbilt

The use of the bat that was either unapproved or lost its proper approved sticker — which Tennessee claims — turned a first inning home run into an inning ending strikeout.

But from there it was Vanderbilt that made the costly mistakes as Tennessee won its program record 17th straight game.

With Tennessee leading 2-1 in the fifth inning, a series of Vanderbilt miscues completely changed the complexion of the game.

First, Vanderbilt outfielders Javier Vaz and Enrique Bradfield Jr. couldn’t find a Seth Stephenson fly ball that dropped between the two of them in shallow left-centerfield.

That brought Beck up to the plate with a pair of runners on base. With “cheater” comments raining down on him, the sophomore outfielder roped the first pitch of the at-bat into the right-center gap for a two-RBI double.

“That’s kind of funny actually,” said Beck about claims Tennessee is cheating. “But no, we have some real firepower this year. I would say the other ball that I hit in the gap too was hit pretty well too and that was with a different bat too. The bats don’t matter. You could give us wood bats and it really doesn’t matter to us. We have an explosive team and we’re going to keep doing it this year.”

A wild pitch allowed Beck to advance to third and while the Vols’ failed to get him home with one-out, Trey Lipscomb sent a sky-high fly ball to shallow right field.

Vanderbilt’s Carter Young never seemed to find the ball, backing up to the warning track before the ball dropped 40-feet in front of him. Lipscomb’s fly ball ended up as a triple and ended Vanderbilt starter Chris McElvain’s day.

“The sky was kind of the midrange,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “It wasn’t day time. It wasn’t night time. Also last night, when we practiced on Thursday night, I will give myself some credit. I hit some fungoes high enough to go above the lights even though I am not very strong. If it gets above those things, our guys were having trouble seeing them. I can’t speak for their guys. But I assume those were lifted high enough in the air that it was above the lights.”

According to reports from Vanderbilt beat writers, the Commodores have recently replaced the lights at Hawkins Field.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin turned to LHP Hunter Owen to retire left-handed first baseman Luc Lipcius. Lipcius struggles badly with left-handed pitching and quickly fell behind 0-2 in the count. However, the Commodores made another mistake as an 0-2 pitch in the dirt got away from catcher Dominic Keegan allowing Lipscomb to score.

A 6-1 lead was all Tennessee needed to get to the finish line.

Freshman Chase Burns didn’t have his best outing of the season but was still effective, striking out seven batters while allowing just two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Vitello gave Burns the quick hook and the Tennessee bullpen proved excellent.

LHP Will Mabrey relieved Burns, stranding a runner on third base on his way to 1.2 scoreless innings.

“I think one of the reasons we got their starter out so quickly in (Chris) McElvain, he had good stuff but we had some at-bats that we grinded it out that made it a lot tougher on him than the scoreboard kind of looked,” Vitello said. “I think they were in the process of doing that to (Chase) Burns as well. They took as good of swings off that kid as any team that we have played so far. He was close to 100 pitches. The stuff was starting to fade a little bit. We decided to go with our guy that we had ready first our there.”

Mabrey got Tennessee into the eighth inning, lefty Kirby Connell came in for one at-bat — retiring Bradfield to open the eight inning. After struggling last week at Ole Miss, Camden Sewell got Tennessee to the finish line, allowing no hits and just one walk while recording the final five outs.

It wasn’t a dominant win for Tennessee, but it showed how hard the Vols are to beat. A handful of Vanderbilt mistakes gave the Vols’ extra opportunities and that’s all that they needed to improve to 7-0 in SEC play.

“The comment I made to our guys about that was the baseball gods or karma or whatever, I don’t think you can play the game and have that in the back of your mind,” Vitello said. “I think you just have to compete. Some of those at-bats, if you back track and watch the game or look at the box score, were very competitive at-bats. While we caught a couple breaks, I think our guys at least had, in part, something to do with that stuff.”

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