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OTH On Deck: Week Five

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Overshadowed by both the Vols and Lady Vols earning a trip to the Sweet 16, Tennessee baseball had a nightmare road trip to Missouri. 

The Vols (15-6, 0-3 SEC) got swept at Missouri by scores of 9-1, 7-4 and 7-1. Tennessee fell rapidly in every poll and start the SEC slate at the bottom. 

Luckily, it was only one series in a long season. We can’t expect this team to get six sweeps in conference play. Regardless, and Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello echoed this sentiment, there is work to be done. 

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Vitello made a statement on Tuesday, running out a unique lineup against Western Carolina on Tuesday. He isn’t afraid to make changes after the rough weekend at Missouri. The Vols bounced back with a shutout on against Western Carolina. 

Here are some takeaways from the week, and a look ahead at Texas A&M. 

Offense struggles 

The bottom of Tennessee’s lineup hasn’t been great, but it was worse against Missouri. The starters in the seven, eight, nine spots went 0-for-12 on the weekend. Vitello worked some pinch hitters to provide supports for the bottom third, but nothing created a spark.

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As for some of the Vols’ bigger bats, they stayed quiet over the weekend. Blake Burke combined for 0-for-10 on the weekend and Jared Dickey stayed hitless as well. 

Zane Denton and Griffin Merritt added home runs for the Vols, and Christian Scott had a fantastic weekend at the dish. Unfortunately, it will take more than that to win an SEC series. 

Starting rotation looks uncharacteristic 

The dominant pitching we have come to expect from Tennessee was not there over the weekend. 

Friday night starter Chase Dollander has had first inning struggles this year, and Missouri hit him around in the first. He gave up four-extra base hits in the first inning on the way to giving up six runs to the Tigers. His four strike outs were a season low. 

Chase Burns was better, but not his normal self. He finished with 12 strikeouts but gave up a two-run shot and balked a run in. The balk call got Vitello tossed, but Burns didn’t “gain ground” to first was how it was described. 

Drew Beam wasn’t charged with an earned run in his outing, but he wasn’t himself either. Three walks and a throwing error by himself made his outing arguably his worst. 

Defensive miscues continue

Yes, it was cold and windy in Columbia, Missouri, but both teams had to deal with the weather. 

Some of the errors won’t show up in the scorebook, but as we saw the first weekend of the season, the outfield remains an issue for the Vols. Six errors showed up in the books. Missouri was able to capitlize on the errors and take the sweep. 

With pitching like the Vols have, defense is going to be paramount for this team’s success. 

A look at Texas A&M

Vitello called the SEC slate “10 weeks of hell.” Texas A&M (15-6, 1-2 SEC) went 1-2 against No. 1 LSU over the weekend. The Aggies are ranked in the top-25 amongst most polls and impressed a lot of people in their come from behind win over LSU on Sunday. 

A&M is led by Hunter Haas offensively who is hitting .413. The two-hole usually gets things rolling for the Aggies. The Vols wills face Nathan Dettmer on Friday, and he boasts a 3.24 ERA. 

Dettmer has the highest ERA of the Aggies starting rotation. Texas A&M has a pretty deep bullpen with a lot of matchup guys. 

A series win, at home, for Tennessee would boost confidence for many.

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