Tennessee will face red-hot Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Semifinal Saturday night at the Hoover Met.
Chase Dollander was dominant for Tennessee against the vaunted Tiger offense, allowing just four hits, two walks and one earned run while striking out nine in 6.2 innings pitched.
“He was the same as he’s been which is excellent,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “Then the lineup, without any disrespect to anyone else, is different. It’s a really good lineup. We kind of had a clash of the titans if you will. They’re going to get there’s at some point, so the key for him I think was the old NFL or college defense thing ‘bend, don’t break.’ I thought he did a nice job of that, but he also seemed to pick up some steam as the game went on.”
Kentucky — who finished 12th in the SEC regular season — is on a tear in Hoover. The Wildcats opened the tournament with a win over Auburn and after falling to LSU in its second game, defeated Vanderbilt and LSU on back-to-back days to reach the semifinal.
Despite Kentucky having a loss in the tournament and Tennessee being unbeaten in the event, the winner of Saturday night’s showdown will advance to Sunday’s championship game. Once the SEC Tournament enters the semifinal round, it goes back to single elimination like it is in the first round.
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Tennessee has yet to announce its starting pitcher against the Wildcats after Blade Tidwell and Dollander started the first two tournament games.
Freshman Chase Burns started the game after Dollander last weekend at Mississippi State, but Vitello wouldn’t say whether he’d start following the LSU win.
“We’ll see. We’ll kind of discuss what we want to do tomorrow,” Vitello said. “I don’t even know what time we’ll play. Obviously, we don’t know who we’ll play but yeah we’ll figure it out. I think the key is a couple of guys, in particular Tidwell and Dollander, were not really in a rhythm in the season got in one.”
The Vols and Wildcats will begin play 30 minutes following the end of the Texas A&M versus Florida semifinal on the other side of the bracket. First pitch will be approximately 10:15 p.m. ET. While Kentucky only has to beat Tennessee once, it’s the Wildcats’ second game of the day and fifth game in four days.
Kentucky is the only team to defeat Tennessee in a weekend series this season, taking two-out-of-three in. Lexington earlier this month.