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Tennessee baseball: How can Vols grow from mid-week loss?

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Tennessee’s self-inflicted errors caught up to them on Tuesday. The Vols fell to Boston College 7-6 in 10 innings. 

Unlike football, losses happen in baseball and teams turn out OK. It is a very, very long season. This year’s team is not the team that took college baseball by storm last year. As Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello has repeated multiple times, we can’t expect this year’s team to put up the numbers they did last year. 

With that being said, last year’s team was not immune to errors. The difference is when you are scoring double-digit runs a game, you’re allowed to make mistakes. This year’s team has a smaller margin of error, and that showed against Boston College. 

So, here’s a look at what went wrong and how Tennessee can grow from its poor showing against the Eagles. 

Mental Mistakes 

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Mental mistakes cost Tennessee the game on Tuesday, particularly on the basepaths. No mistake stands out more than Ethan Payne’s in the ninth. 

After Blake Burke tripled, the Vols had a runner on third with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. After Payne came in to pinch run, he attempted to tag up on a line out hit by Jared Dickey. 

Only, Payne hesitated, went home, then went back to the bag to tag up, then tried to go home again. Despite a poor throw by Boston College, he was still out by a step.

Obviously, it isn’t ideal for Payne to get gunned at home, but that wasn’t the only base running error that could have changed the game. 

An inning earlier, Griffin Merritt stood at third with one out. Cal Stark laid a perfect bunt down the first baseline, but Merritt didn’t move. The graduate transfer remained at third. 

Vitello didn’t throw either player under the bus but cited both mistakes must be corrected in the future.  

Defensive miscues continue 

Kirby Connell gave up his first hit of the year in the sixth inning, on a ball that should have been caught.

In the Bermuda triangle of plays, Christian Moore, Christian Scott, and Griffin Merrit surrounded a pop-fly in shallow right field. 

However, for the Vols, the play should’ve been made. It appeared like Moore called the ball, but a second baseman running backward is not in the ideal position to catch the ball. 

Scott in center field watched the ball fall in between him and Moore. The runner made it to second on the play and came around to score. As a center fielder, he should take the initiative on the play, for himself or for Merritt to step in. 

For last year’s team, giving up a single run in the sixth is no big deal. But for most, including the current Tennessee team, giving up free runs will cost games down the stretch. 

Moving forward 

Luckily for the Vols, they’re making mistakes in March and not May. Many of the mistakes made on Tuesday are easily correctable. If someone calls the pop fly in the sixth, Tennessee may go up one in the bottom half and coast to a win. 

Vitello will likely get the youth out of Tennessee before the tough SEC slate and postseason. It’s baseball, it’s a long season, and there’s no reason to sound the alarms in March. 

Everyone watching must also understand how great last year’s team was, and let this year’s team be this year’s team. 

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