Tennessee baseball’s series clinching victory over Vanderbilt had little drama through six innings as the Vols opened up a 17-1 lead. But Tennessee couldn’t record the final three outs without drama as the umpires ejected Christian Moore from the game.
With one on and one-out Moore and first baseman Blake Burke drifted into right field on a high fly ball to shallow right field. Burke made the play and fired the ball into Chase Dollander who was covering first.
Vanderbilt baserunner Troy LaNeve ran into Dollander while getting back to the base. Moore came charging back in and got in LaNeve’s face as jawing ensued. Umpires and coaches from both sides did a good job of deescalating the situation and after a meeting the umpiring crew decided to eject Moore.
“I was locked in and focused on what I need to do,” Dollander said of the incident. “I was trying to just calm everybody down and make sure that if we get out of this inning, we are winning this game. Obviously, he got ejected, which I don’t even know what happened. I thought he went back to second base. Started throwing some warm-up pitches and I look back and he is walking to the dugout. I really have no idea what happened or what went on.”
Tony Vitello had a good view on the incident from the first base dugout and got the explanation from the umpires— which he vehemently disagreed with one the field but was much more reserved discussing postgame.
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“The explanation was, after they talked about it for a while, that they needed to take action for whatever had gone down,” Vitello said. “I saw most of it. I was going out there to make sure CMo (Christian Moore) wasn’t going to do anything he wasn’t supposed to do. And actually, I talked to him and told him we were going to bring in somebody else, which he wasn’t happy about, but then after that, there was a decision to eject him.
What led up to it was their guy running the bases hard regardless of the score and our guy getting over to cover first base in Doe (Chase Dollander), and I don’t know what Doe said about it, but there was contact. But it was, I don’t want to say incidental, but it was two guys playing baseball, man. So, I’ll acknowledge the fact that CMo has got a lot of passion, and I’d rather have guys with passion than without. I also will acknowledge the fact that he has got his teammates back. I think that was the intent of what he was doing, but I also think the situation––with all due respect to the team we played and the scoreboard––it wasn’t necessary.”
The blow for Tennessee isn’t that Moore got ejected but that an ejection comes with a mandatory one-game suspension. The umpires have to file a report on the incident following the game and can decide whether it warrants a multi-game suspension or not.
We don’t yet know what the umpires report says, but Moore will be unavailable for the series finale regardless.
That’s a blow for a Tennessee offense starting to find its stride. The second baseman’s quick trigger to defend his pitcher is the positive to draw from the incident if you’re looking for one.
“He’s the quarterback for our team – Dollander is,” Maui Ahuna said of the incident. “I have his back and I’ll have C-Mo’s back. Any player in this country would do the same.”
Moore is hitting .282 on the season with six home runs and 26 RBIs but is in the midst of a slump while dealing with a foot injury.
First pitch for the series finale between Tennessee and Vanderbilt is at 1 p.m. ET Sunday. ESPN2 is broadcasting the game.