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Did Wooden Bats Contribute To Tennessee Tech Ending Tennessee’s 23-Game Win Streak?

KODAK, Tn — Tennessee’s 23-game winning streak came to a close Tuesday as Tennessee Tech defeated the Vols, 3-2, at Smokies Stadium.

Playing at the home of the Chicago Cubs Double A affiliate — the Tennessee Smokies — both teams used wood bats in the contest.

The Vols’ offense struggled, tallying just four hits in the loss. So, did the wood bats come back to hurt Tennessee?

“No,” Tennessee second baseman Jorel Ortega said, if the wood bats played a difference. “It was more approach. I mean we were chasing a lot. It’s something we usually don’t do. The numbers say it, we’re probably one of the most disciplined teams in the country. Just chasing out of the strike zone put us in a hole.”

Tennessee’s issues were much more approach related than the result of a few balls coming short of homers or ground balls not making it through the infield when they normally do.

Entering Tuesday’s game, Volunteer batters were striking out just eight times a game. Tennessee struck out 13 times in the loss. The Vols also earned slightly fewer walks than they average though the difference was much smaller than the strikeouts.

“I think what you’re going to get out of the bats is someone’s not going to pop a cheap one or you may get a few more slower hit ground balls,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “It’s going to downscale the score of the game. To me,maybe you can make the argument that if there are aluminum bats in your hands you lose 6-5 instead of what it was. The approach was not very good.”

Tennessee Tech reliever Carter Gannaway dominated the Vols in 5.2 innings of relief. The soft throwing right-hander kept the Vols off balance with his effective slider on his way to striking out nine batters.

Tennessee didn’t get a hit off of the junior pitcher reaching base just twice — via Drew Gilbert and Luc Lipcius walks.

“From my point it was pretty evident, just a bunch of spin and our guys kept chasing,” Vitello said of Gannaway. “He obviously landed enough for strikes too but a ton of them were not in the zone and our guys — for whatever reason — seemed to be in a big hurry. Again, I’m not up there. Some guys throw breaking balls that either looks like a fastball or looks like it’s going to be a strike and it ends up not being a strike. I can’t speak for them but it was obviously a repetitive mistake. Guys being in a rush and chasing down in the dirt.”

The Vols pitching was stout for the majority of the evening. A soft struck infield single gave Tennessee Tech its first run of the game in the fifth inning. Then in the sixth inning, Eric Newsome became the second player to take Ben Joyce deep. The sophomore’s two-out homer gave Tennessee Tech a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The Vols will look to start a new win streak Friday night when they open a weekend series with No. 24 Alabama. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. ET. The SEC Network+ will stream the game.

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