No. 10 Tennessee bounced back from a rough start to SEC play at Missouri. The Vols got a sweep of Texas A&M and took care of business on Tuesday against UNC Asheville.
Now, the Vols are tasked with traveling to No. 1 LSU for a Thursday-Saturday series. Before that trip, let’s take a look at what we learned about Tennessee and a little scouting report on the top-ranked Tigers.
Lots of moving parts
The bottom of the lineup has been an offensive travesty for the early part of the season. In a league like the SEC, you need production from your offense 1-9. The 2022 Vols were fortunate to have more than enough offensive production.
So, Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello moved some stuff around in the lineup. Former cleanup hitter Zane Denton moved to the nine-hole and provided a punch the bottom of the lineup needed. Denton got five RBIs on Sunday to lead the Vols to a sweep over Texas A&M.
Freshman Hunter Ensley also provided some offense for the bottom third of the lineup. Ensley is hitting .400 and consistently put together solid at-bats over the weekend.
Jared Dickey… at catcher?
Dickey made the move back to catcher over the weekend. Whether he is in the outfield or catching, Vitello will have his bat in the lineup.
Also – believe it or not – Dickey behind the plate can be a defensive upgrade. There is more room in the outfield for true defenders if Dickey is catching.
Former starting catcher Charlie Taylor is very, very good defensively, but he supplies little on the offensive end. Cal Stark is the in-between of both catchers, but his inconsistency raises questions.
Will teams run on Dickey? Yes. But Tennessee’s pitchers are very slow to the plate so it likely wouldn’t matter who was catching.
First inning struggles
Tennessee gave up a run in the first inning of all three games over the weekend. They gave up a first-inning run on two of the three games at Columbia. Luckily, against the Aggies, Tennessee was able to respond with offense of their own in the first inning.
Both Chase Burns and Drew Beam surrendered first-inning home runs over the weekend. Chase Dollander looked better, but some miscommunications made his first inning a disaster.
Against a team like LSU, giving up first-inning runs could be a nail in the coffin.
A look at LSU
They’re good. They likely have the Golden Spikes award winner in Dylan Crews and possibly the SEC Pitcher of the Year in Paul Skenes.
Crews is hitting .531 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs. Skenes, the Thursday night starter and ace of the staff, has allowed three runs in 37.1 innings pitched. He has 71 strikeouts to just seven walks.
NC State transfer Tommy “Tanks” White is hitting .392 with a team-high 42 RBIs. The matchup with LSU will prove to be a good litmus test for Tennessee.