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Tennessee Baseball Readying For The First Series Rubber Match Of The Season

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

ATHENS, Ga. — Tennessee coach Tony Vitello thought it over then came to an answer. He had never coached a team that had made it through the month of April without playing a single series rubber match.

It took just one more week for Tennessee baseball to split its first two games of a weekend series for the first time all season. The Vols had won the first two games of the series six times and lost the first two games of the series four times this season ahead of their weekend trip to Athens.

But after Tennessee took the series opener and Georgia responded with a 3-1 win Saturday afternoon, the Vols are facing their first series rubber match of the season Sunday afternoon. A win would give Tennessee its first road series win of the year.

“Game three should always be exciting to play,” Vitello said Saturday evening. “There’s nothing to save yourself for whether you’re going back to your room or getting on a bus. The weekend is over with. Tomorrow is an off day. So, show up tomorrow and bounce around a little bit.”

More From RTI: What Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee’s Game Two Loss At Georgia

This is a mostly new Tennessee team that’s had to find its way over the course of the season. Firsts have been a big theme for Vitello and his team as they try to find themselves and different ways to win. However, Tennessee is trying to keep the vibe the same entering its first rubber match of the season.

“I’m just excited to come to the park,” Vitello said. “They’ve made it that way. It wasn’t like that in the beginning. … As of late, it’s just a good vibe to be around. It’s one of those deals you don’t want the day to end. It could be a Thursday practice or a Friday game but you don’t want the day to end.”

SEC baseball is always elevated and intense and series rubber matches can often raise that intensity with the two teams becoming familiar with one another by the end of the weekend and any chipiness carrying over to the series deciding game.

But Vitello doesn’t believe there’s necessarily extra intensity in a series rubber match.

“I think it kind of depends on how the series is going too,” Vitello said. “I mean everyone is starving for wins in this league. For us in particular, I’m sure the kids would like to win and fans and all that good stuff, but for us the model and the theme haven’t changed. We just want to keep pushing forward and finding our best baseball.”

As he has for most of the last two seasons, right-handed pitcher Drew Beam will get the ball for Tennessee in Sunday’s series finale. The sophomore from Murfreesboro enters the matchup with a 6-2 record and 3.13 ERA on the season.

“It’s a resume if he were to come to the office and say ‘I’d like the ball’ he’d have a long list of things that he could present in front of us,” Vitello said.

First pitch for the series finale at Foley Field is at 1 p.m. ET.

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