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Long Ball Powers Florida Past Tennessee Baseball In Series Opener

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball dropped its series opener against No. 3 Florida, falling to the Gators 6-1 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium Thursday night.

A Blake Burke defensive mistake and solo home run was the story of the game early before a four-run fifth inning blew the game open for Florida and poor situational hitting kept Tennessee from climbing back in the game.

Here’s everything to know about the series opener.

More From RTI: Play-By-Play Of Tennessee’s Series Opening Loss Against Florida
Blake Burke Giveth, Blake Burke Taketh Away

It took all of two innings for defensive miscues to rear their ugly head for Tennessee. With one-out in the second inning Blake Burke booted a ground ball giving Florida a one-out baserunner. It proved costly.

Colby Halter singled to right field and after a Ty Evans sac fly moved a runner to third, Michael Robertson legged out an infield single to open the scoring.

It was an unearned run with the RBI hit coming with two-outs, a common theme for the Vols this season. After Thursday night’s series opener, 20 of Tennessee’s 64 (31%) of runs given up in SEC play have been unearned.

While Burke made the miscue that cost Tennessee in the second inning, he quickly made up for it with his bat. Burke led off the bottom of the second inning by homering over the batter’s eye in center field.

The success at the plate was a nice sign after Burke’s been in a bit of a mini slump— at least by the sophomore’s high standards. But on the other side, Tennessee is still adjusting to life in the infield without Luc Lipcius at first base. Lipcius was an elite defender and while Burke is a star, his defense is still a work in progress.

Florida Takes Control In The Fifth Inning

Tennessee starter Chase Dollander was hanging in there as he took the mound for the fifth inning ready to face Florida’s lineup for the third time. Florida led 2-1 but Tennessee was still right in the game. That’s when the trouble started.

Dollander walked Wyatt Langford on four pitches and after retiring Florida star Jac Caglianone his first two plate appearances, the first baseman roped a double to right field to give the Gators two-on with nobody out.

After Dollander threw a first pitch ball to Josh Rivera, Tony Vitello went to Seth Halvorsen out of the bullpen. Rivera worked the count to 3-1 before hitting a three-run homer just over the right field wall.

The trouble wasn’t over for Halvorsen or Tennessee as BT Riopelle skied a home run to left field the very next at-bat. Florida’s lead went from one run to five runs in just a moments notice.

Florida took control of the game with a four-run fifth inning and maintained its momentum in the bottom half of the inning when Brandon Sproat stranded a pair of Vols on base by retiring Christian Moore and Jared Dickey. The Vols had the heart of their order up with runners on base. It was a chance for Tennessee to pump life back into Lindsey Nelson Stadium and get back within striking distance but the Vols couldn’t come through.

Situational Hitting Eludes Tennessee

While the fifth inning put Tennessee in a hole, the Vols offense failed to provide any way to get out. After a strong weekend at LSU, Tennessee’s offense faltered in a big way in the series opener against Florida.

The Vols tallied just six hits over the game but had baserunners often thanks to six walks and a hit-by pitch. However, Tennessee’s offense was horrific with runners on base Thursday night.

Tennessee batters combined to hit just two-of-23 with runners on base and one-of-13 with runners in-scoring position. One of the two hits on base was a Christian Scott infield single that successfully moved the runner but failed to do any real damage.

The duo that struggled the most with runners on was perhaps the most surprising. Christian Moore and Jared Dickey have been fantastic, professional hitters this season but went down back-to-back to end an inning with runners on base three times.

Gators break the game open with a big fifth inning and poor situational hitting keeps Tennessee from fighting back.

Moore had a regrettable night at the plate, striking out looking four different times. Dickey wasn’t any better, also failing to reach base while striking out three times.

Tennessee isn’t going to win many SEC games hitting  with runners on base and they aren’t going to win many SEC games when Moore and Dickey combine to go zero-of-nine with seven strikeouts.

Final Stats

Up Next

Tennessee and Florida resume their weekend series Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. First pitch is at 7 p.m. ET with SEC Network broadcasting the game.

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