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OTH On Deck: Tennessee baseball comes off rough weekend vs. Florida, set to face No. 5 Arkansas

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Tennessee baseball had another rough weekend, dropping two of three to Florida at home. It was the first home series loss since 2021. 

The Vols run-ruled Florida on Saturday though, showing life offensively and giving fans a glimmer of hope for what this team could be. Tennessee did the same thing to midweek opponent Eastern Kentucky. 

Here are some takeaways from a tough weekend and a look ahead at No. 5 Arkansas. 

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Chase Burns’s struggles continue 

Burns, the once consistent righty, has quickly become a question mark in Tennessee’s rotation. He has surrendered 25 runs in 17.1 innings against conference opponents. To be fair, two of the runs were unearned. 

Also during that stretch, he has given up eight home runs. His ERA sits just below 12 in SEC play. The MLB Draft prospect has not been the pitcher we have come to know. 

Time for Tennessee baseball to change its rotation?

Vitello hinted at it on Friday, but change could be coming for Tennessee’s pitching. Former Missouri ace Seth Halvorsen comes out of the bullpen boasting a 2.61 ERA. He seems full strength following his arm injury, and could be an addition to the starting three. 

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Andrew Lindsey and Camden Sewell could also both switch to a start role from their middle relief positions. A couple of weeks in the bullpen for Burns could help him clear his head and return to the pitcher fans came to know from last season. 

The Vols need Burns at his best for late May and early June. 

Swing-and-a-miss: Strikeouts a problem for Tennessee baseball

Or, maybe no swing at all. Strikeouts were a big problem against the Gators. The Vols tied a program record with 18 strikeouts on Thursday. They struck out 14 times on Friday. 

On Saturday Florida gifted the Vols 18 walks. Whatever approach Tennessee had in the first two games needs to be thrown out the window. This team doesn’t have the pop of the team last year, so strikeouts are killer. 

Look at Arkansas

The Razorbacks are all they’re chalked up to be. On the road, Tennessee will have its hands full taking on a fired-up Arkansas team.

The two coaches aren’t fond of each other as well, as if the sides needed extra juice heading into the April SEC matchup. The Razorbacks have only lost twice at home this season, to Alabama and Eastern Illinois. 

Arkansas did lose a series to LSU, so the Razorbacks are beatable. But they also have five guys hitting above .300 and some others who are close to that mark as well. Pitching will be paramount for Tennessee, and putting the ball in play. 

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