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Tennessee Baseball Takes Series Opener Over LSU

Photo By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball turned in one of its more complete performances of the season to knock off LSU 6-3 in Friday night’s series opener at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The top of the Vols’ lineup was explosive, their pitching staff pieced it together at a high level and their defense made a handful of key plays behind them.

Here’s everything to know about the series opening win.

Stamos To Causey On The Mound

After AJ Causey turned in two straight bad starts on the mound the last two weeks, Tony Vitello and Frank Anderson mixed up the Vols’ pitching plan to open the series.

The Vols used another transfer pitcher, Cal lefty Chris Stamos, as an opener despite the grad transfer pitching just 3.2 innings in the first four SEC series. But Stamos made Tennessee look smart, facing the minimum through the first two innings.

He ran into some bad luck in the second inning when Dylan Dreiling never saw a shallow fly ball to left field and it dropped for a one-out double. Vitello went to the bullpen and Causey in a new role when the Tigers put runners on the corners with two outs.

Causey couldn’t retire Tommy White, allowing one of the inherited runners to score but limited the damage there and preserved a 2-1 lead.

The Stamos opener outing was one of his best of the season, allowing just two hits, one walk and a run while striking out three in 2.2 innings pitched.

Stamos was good but Causey was even better. The submarine pitcher bounced back from those two straight poor performances and turned in a stellar outing, striking out seven batters in 4.2 scoreless innings of relief.

The Jacksonville State transfer did allow five hits and exited with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth inning. But Kirby Connell picked him up by getting out of the jam. It was a strong bounce back performance from Causey and it proved massive for the Vols.

More From RTI: Play-By-Play Of Tennessee’s Series Opening Win Against LSU

Top Half Of The Lineup Propels The Offense

Tennessee’s lineup depth is one of its biggest strengths but it wasn’t a great night for the bottom of its lineup. Its one through five hitters more than made up for it.

Christian Moore reached base in all four at-bats. Blake Burke extended his hit streak to 23 games— tied for third longest in program history— on a two-of-four night at the plate.

Billy Amick made his return to the field for the first time since March 15 and sent the first pitch he saw into the left field bleachers for a two-run homer. Kavares Tears worked strong at-bats throughout the night and reached base twice times. Left fielder Dylan Dreiling retied the team home run lead with his 12th long ball of the season.

In the four innings that the Vols’ one through five hitters came to the plate, Tennessee scored two runs, one run, three runs and zero runs. The group combined to go six-of-14 at the plate with six walks.

It’s challenging to find a better top five hitters than Tennessee has. They delivered against the Tigers.

A Few Defensive Plays Help Swing The Game

It would be over simplistic to act like Tennessee playing good defense and LSU playing bad defense was the difference in the game. After all, LSU scored its third inning run thanks in large part to a Tennessee defensive miscue and the Vols made another in the ninth inning as things got a bit dicey.

However, Tennessee made a few nice defensive plays that helped shut down innings while LSU made some costly defensive mistakes.

Tennessee turned a 4-6 double play with a runner in-scoring position in the first inning on a Ashton Larson hard liner to second base. The more impressive defensive play came in the fifth inning when Blake Burke fielded a soft grounder, touched first base and fired the throw to Dean Curley who got the tag at second for an inning ending double play.

Vols’ centerfielder Hunter Ensley also made a very impressive catch at the wall for the first out of one inning.

The LSU defensive mistakes came in the sixth inning when Tennessee started opening things up. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Amick hit a ground ball to shortstop. He looked like he would beat out the throw and avoid the double play but it didn’t matter as the throw got past first baseman Jared Jones and into the camera well allowing the run from second to score.

Amick scored the next at-bat on two LSU mistakes. He took off for third on a wild pitch and scored when the throw went into left field.

It wasn’t the only difference in the game but the defense was a factor in Tennessee earning the win.

Box Score

Up Next

Tennessee and LSU resume their weekend series at 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday. The SEC Network is broadcasting the game.

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