Tennessee baseball found its mojo in Friday night’s series opener against arch rival Vanderbilt, using a ninth inning comeback to defeat Vanderbilt in extra innings 4-3.
Andrew Lindsey was fantastic on the mound in a pitcher’s duel and after a quiet night the Vols’ bats awoke late to steal the series opener.
Here’s everything you need to know about a thrilling Tennessee series opening victory.
More From RTI: Play-By-Play Of Tennessee’s Game One Win Against Vanderbilt
A Friday Night Pitching Duel
Tennessee entered the season expecting a lot of Friday night pitcher dual’s in SEC play with ace Chase Dollander. They finally found on in its sixth SEC series as Andrew Lindsey — not Dollander — and Vanderbilt’s Carter Holton turned in strong outings in the series opener.
Lindsey was good not great in an 6.2 inning outing that saw him allow three earned runs on six hits. The Charlotte transfer was good throughout his outing but Vanderbilt did a fantastic job of capitalizing on scoring opportunities.
That came in the third inning when Vanderbilt star RJ Schreck drove in a pair of runs with a two-out single and again in the fifth when a single, bunt single and RBI groundout gave Vanderbilt a run.
Both innings Vanderbilt threatened with its eight and nine hitters leading off the inning with singles but Lindsey limited the damage including stranding the bases loaded in the fifth with 10th strikeout— a new career high.
As good as Lindsey was, Vanderbilt ace Carter Holton was even better. Tennessee recorded its second hit off Holton until the sixth inning. The first hit was a Zane Denton solo homer in the second inning.
The lefty did surrender two walks and hit a batter but his off-speed stuff was dynamic and was enough to hold off Tennessee batters throughout his six inning outing.
Ninth Inning Comeback Sparks Extra Innings Win
Tennessee’s offense was largely lifeless when Kavares Tears stepped in the batter’s box to leadoff the bottom of the ninth inning. The Vols had just two hits on the night and needed two runs to tie the game.
Tears got them started right, taking a 3-2 pitch off the batter’s eye for a solo homer. The redshirt freshman cut the lead in half but after uncompetitive strikeouts from Denton and Ahuna it looked like it was all for not.
But Dylan Dreiling pinch hit and golfed 1-2 pitch over the right field wall to tie the game. Tennessee ended the first nine innings with four hits, three solo homers and most importantly a 3-3 tie on the scoreboard.
Tennessee didn’t take advantage of a scoring opportunity in the 10th but made it happen quickly in the 12th inning as Griffin Merritt led off the inning with a homer off the right field video board.
Tennessee’s Bullpen Delivers In Massive Fashion
Tennessee has mostly used Camden Sewell in game two or game three of weekend series but went quickly to Sewell in game one of the series opener.
Sewell got the final out of the seventh inning and held Vanderbilt off the scoreboard in 2.1 innings of action. The super senior was critical in keeping Tennessee within striking distance before the ninth inning comeback.
Vitello let Sewell go back out for the 10th inning but pulled him in a 2-2 count with a runner on first and nobody out.
Chase Burns has spent most of his college career as a starter. Not only did he enter with a runner on base, he entered in the middle of an at-bat in the 10th inning.
That was no problem as the sophomore got Jack Bulgar chasing on a slider and then struck out back-to-back batters with 100 mph fastballs to strand the inherited runner.
Griffin Merritt gave Burns some help in the 11th inning but the sophomore didn’t need any for the other two outs, picking up his fifth and sixth strikeout to exit the inning unscathed. Facing the top of the order in the 12th, Burns retired the side in order with a pair of strikeouts. After struggling most the season, Burns has been electric out of the bullpen the last two weekends and was flat out dominant Friday.
It couldn’t have come at a bigger moment with Tennessee’s season on the brink.
Tennessee and Vanderbilt resume its weekend series Saturday at noon ET. ESPN2 is broadcasting the game.