FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Zane Denton couldn’t haul in Cal Stark’s throw to third as the Vols’ attempted to go around the horn after Andrew Lindsey got a strikeout for out number two in the third inning.
It was a meaningless and simple mistake that represented an all too common issue for Tennessee baseball. The Vols booted the ball all around Northwest Arkansas Friday night as Arkansas took the series opener 5-2.
Here’s everything you need to know.
More From RTI: Play-By-Play Of Tennessee’s Series Opener Against Arkansas
Third Inning Mistakes Sour Strong Andrew Lindsey Outing
Andrew Lindsey made his first Tennessee start Friday night and looked like the Vols’ starting pitching from a season ago in the first two innings. The Charlotte transfer lived ahead in the count and was efficient with his pitches while striking out four of the first seven batters he faced.
But Tennessee’s all too persistent defensive miscues reared its ugly head in the third inning. Parker Rowland led off the inning with a single that just got past the diving Maui Ahuna and that’s when the trouble began.
Lindsey got weak contact on the following batter but Ahuna dropped the toss from Christian Moore at second as he tried to quickly turn a tough double play. Instead Arkansas had runners on the corners with nobody out.
Ahuna was late to cover second on a stolen base attempt and Cal Stark’s throw got past him allowing the run from third to score and John Bolton to reach third.
That mistake would prove all for not as Arkansas’ leadoff man Tavian Josenberger hit a two-run homer to right field to give the Razorbacks a 3-2 lead.
Lindsey surrendering the homer was really his lone mistake but his day ended early after Arkansas got two runners on before Tennessee recorded an out in the fourth inning.
The right-handed pitcher allowed just four hits and struck out five while walking no one. But three errors behind him led to a shorter outing and a sour note on an impressive first start.
Tennessee’s Offense Starts Fast, Can’t Sustain Success
Tennessee’s offense started the weekend with a bang when Jared Dickey hit a leadoff homer to right field on the fourth pitch of the weekend. The Vols’ kept the offensive pressure on in the first inning and capitalized on an Arkansas’ balk to take an early 2-0 lead.
But Tennessee struggled to sustain that offense. Even in the second inning when only one batter reached base, the Vols worked an abundance of competitive at-bats and made Arkansas’ starter Hunter Hollan work. Hollan threw 47 pitches in the first two innings and it looked like Tennessee would get to Arkansas’ bullpen early.
But then Hollan got into a groove. Tennessee recorded three hits in the first inning and then just two in the ensuing five innings. The Vols only had one runner reach scoring position after the first inning and couldn’t capitalize.
After throwing 47 pitches in the first two innings, Hollan threw only 54 in the following four innings allowing him to get deep in the game. While getting to the bullpen early wouldn’t have paid massive dividends Friday it would have the rest of the weekend as injuries have made the Razorbacks’ bullpen thin.
Tennessee Uses An Abundance Of Bullpen Arms
Tony Vitello mentioned on the SEC Network broadcast that he would have liked Lindsey to get to the fourth or fifth inning so he and Seth Halvorsen could effectively pitch the majority of the series opener. But Lindsey’s early exit put Tennessee behind schedule and as the Vols’ offense faltered Vitello spread out the innings.
Tennessee used four different arms out of the bullpen Friday night. Halvorsen still got the bulk of work, throwing three innings and giving up just one run. However, the tall right-hander threw just 43 pitches and could be available to throw a short outing on Sunday.
Kirby Connell, Jake Fitzgibbons and Aaron Combs all saw action as well and all performed well as they combined to hold Arkansas’ scoreless for three innings.
The Vols’ bullpen, and pitching as a whole, was really good in the series opener as it has been for the vast majority of the season. It proved as another positive on a night where Tennessee’s weaknesses were glaring.
Tennessee and Arkansas resume their three-game series Saturday night at Baum-Walker Stadium. First pitch is at 7 p.m. ET.