KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 15 Tennessee had a day to forget on Saturday, dropping both games of its doubleheader against Indiana State at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Vols lost both contests by two runs, falling 3-1 in Game 1 before suffering a 7-5 loss in in Game 2 to drop their record to 6-2 on the year.
Game 1 – Indiana State 3, Tennessee 1
The Vols weren’t able to get the bats going in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, dropping their first game of the season by a score of 3-1.
Tennessee was only able to muster five hits, three of which came in the ninth inning, and left eight runners on base. Jordan Beck drove in UT’s only run with a triple in the fourth inning for his 11th RBI of the season.
The Sycamores opened the scoring with a pair of base hits in the top of the second. Brian Fuentes reached with a leadoff double and came around to score on a two-out single by Diego Gines later in the inning.
Gines continued to be a thorn in Tennessee’s side with another big RBI hit in the fourth after an error extended the inning for Indiana State.
The Vols were able to cut the deficit to one thanks to a pair of hits in the bottom of the inning. Jake Rucker led off with a single and came all the way around to score on a triple to the gap in right center by Beck. Tennessee had a chance to tie or take the lead with runners on second and third with one out but was unable to take advantage.
Indiana State added an insurance run in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Fuentes after the Sycamores loaded the bases with one out.
Tennessee made things interesting in the ninth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles from Luc Lipcius and Connor Pavolony. Drew Gilbert followed with a single to deep right-center field that fell between Indiana State’s right and center fielders, but Gilbert was called out on the play after passing Pavolony on the base paths. Christian Scott struck out swinging and Pete Derkay flied out to end the game, leaving the tying run stranded on second base.
The duo of Geremy Guerrero and Connor Cline kept the Vols off balance throughout the game and finished with a combined six strikeouts. Cline pitched six innings in relief and allowed just two hits to earn the win. Closer Tyler Grauer inherited two runners when he entered the game in the ninth, but was able to keep the Vols off the scoreboard and secure his first save of the year.
Freshman right hander Blade Tidwell finished with six strikeouts in four innings of work, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk. Senior Will Heflin did a nice job in relief to keep the Vols within striking distance, allowing just one run on four hits in 4.2 innings of work.
Game 2 – Indiana State 7, Tennessee 5
Things didn’t get much better for the Vols in Game 2 of Saturday’s twin bill, as Indiana State took an early lead and held on for a 7-5 victory.
After falling behind 7-0 in the fifth inning, Tennessee exploded for five runs in the sixth to cut the Sycamores’ lead to two but was unable to complete the late comeback bid.
After a quality start last Sunday at Georgia Southern, junior right hander Elijah Pleasants struggled on Saturday, pitching just two innings after allowing five runs on four hits.
Sophomore lefty Kirby Connell had an incredible performance out of the bullpen to keep Indiana State from adding to its lead. The South Carolina native gave up just one hit in 4.1 shutout innings and retired 13 straight batters at one point.
The Vols’ bats were more productive in Game 2 but were unable to capitalize on some early scoring chances that would prove costly. Tennessee had two golden opportunities to get back in the game but left the bases loaded in the third and fourth innings when the score was 5-0.
Carrying their momentum over from Game 1, the Sycamores jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first two innings, manufacturing a pair of runs in the opening frame and then adding to their lead with a solo home run by Mike Sears in the second. ISU added two more runs in the top of the third to increase its lead to 5-0.
A solo homer by Max Wright and an RBI single from Sean Ross extended the Sycamores lead to seven in the fifth before the Vols bats came alive to the tune of five runs in the sixth to make it a game.
Unfortunately, the relief combo of Connor Fenlong and Tyler Grauer were able to stall the Vols’ comeback attempt with 3.2 scoreless innings to finish the game. Fenlong picked up the win while Grauer allowed just one hit and had four strikeouts over the final two innings to earn his second save of the day.
Tennessee will look to rebound and earn a series split with a win in tomorrow’s series finale. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. and the game will be streamed live on WatchESPN.com and the ESPN app.
CONNELL SHINES BRIGHT ON TOUGH DAY: One of the bright spots on an otherwise tough afternoon was the pitching of sophomore left hander Kirby Connell, who was fantastic in relief in Game 2 on Saturday. Connell gave up just one hit and had three strikeouts in his outing. He also retired 13 straight batters at one point before walking and hitting the final two Sycamores he faced.
VOLS STRUGGLE WITH RISP: Tennessee struggled all afternoon with runners in scoring position, going a combined 4-for-17 over the two games. The Vols left the bases loaded without scoring twice in Game 2 and left 12 runners on base for the game.