Tennessee went 1-2 on the weekend, making them the only SEC baseball team with a losing record. Tennessee moved to .500 after a victory of Alabama A&M on Tuesday.
It is not time to sound the alarms though. Compared to other teams though, the Vols played tougher competition. Tennessee also handled Alabama A&M in game one of a two-game series on Tuesday.
Other SEC schools struggled with their midweek foes, like the Commodores. It’s still early, and there is time to improve. Remember, baseball is a marathon not a sprint.
So, here are some takeaways from Tennessee’s first four games.
Tennessee’s offense struggled over the weekend. It wasn’t because of a lack of opportunities though.
Tennessee had the leadoff batter get on in four innings of all three games this weekend. Against Arizona and Grand Canyon, both games that Tennessee dropped, the Vols failed to plate any leadoff runners. Against UC San Diego, the Vols plated two lead-off runners in the win.
Anyone familiar with baseball knows that if you get leadoff guys on base, you have to get them in. The bottom of the lineup was also disappointing for the Vols, hovering around .200 on the weekend.
The bats came alive in a 10-0 run rule of Alabama A&M on Tuesday, which is no surprise for a midweek game.
The offense will come for Tennessee, and honestly, the offense did enough to win on Saturday…
Tennessee lost on Saturday due to its defense, plain and simple. A couple of errors let Grand Canyon tie, and ultimately take a lead.
On Friday, while it won’t show up in the box score, outfield play was subpar. Balls that should have been caught, fell. A lack of urgency gave up extra bases, which is crucial in close games.
Bunts and baserunning also hurt Tennessee. The Vols failed to play any small ball on the weekend, and base running looked bad. Missed hit and runs, trying to get an extra base and getting thrown out at third and what just seemed like a lack of focus plagued Tennessee all weekend.
Last year’s team made mistakes, yes. When you can swing it like last year’s team, you’re allowed to make mistakes. Having a veteran like Luc Lipcius also saved a lot of infield errors.
Defense, unlike offense, shouldn’t take time to get going. You can work on defense year-round in Knoxville, making these mistakes worrying.
Cal Stark will play
Charlie Taylor started the weekend at catcher for the Vols. Taylor’s bat remains a question mark, especially after this week. He finished 1-for-7 at the dish.
Stark, on the other hand, had a great weekend defensively. He went 4-for-8 at the plate with a home run and a couple of RBIs. While Stark’s defense probably isn’t as sound as Taylor’s, he will find his way into the lineup in the DH spot or at catcher.
This staff is legit
We got a peak at Tennessee’s rotation in 2023, and it was as expected. All three starters built on their 2022 success in the opening weekend.
After a rough first couple of innings, Chase Dollander looked like what we have come to expect on Friday. He finished with two runs on three hits in 4.2 innings of work.
Chase Burns looked solid on Saturday as well, allowing two runs on three hits in 4.2 innings of work as well.
Drew Beam finished with the best stat line of the three, throwing six shutout innings allowing three hits.
Tennessee’s starting rotation should remain dominant throughout this season. Don’t be surprised if this team wins a lot of games by scores of 5-1 or 3-0 compared to blowouts like a year ago.