Unpacking Tennessee baseball's highs and lows of LSU series
Tennessee baseball slugged Saturday to avoid a sweep at LSU.
The No. 9 Vols (21-8, 4-5 SEC) crushed the No. 1 Tigers (24-4, 6-3) 14-7 in the series finale in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Vols lost 5-2 on Thursday and 6-4 on Friday.
The fundamentals are damaging Tennessee
Hunter Ensley hit a homer Friday to pull Tennessee within 3-2. It would have tied the game 3-3 if Dylan Dreiling wasn't picked off moments prior as Tennessee continues to be held back by fielding and baserunning gaffes.
"All we're looking to do is make the average play consistently," Vols coach Tony Vitello said Friday.
Reliever Seth Halvorsen dropped a throw covering first Thursday with two outs in the eighth. Christian Moore missed a tag and didn't get an out at first on the following play, leading to LSU's decisive three-run double in the 5-2 loss.
UT allowed an infield pop-up to land on the mound Friday, leading to a first-inning run. The Vols made three errors in the first four innings Saturday, including a Drew Beam throwing error.
How Tennessee salvaged the finale
Tennessee jumped LSU immediately Saturday, scoring six in the first and four in the second. Moore, Ensley, and Kyle Booker had run-scoring doubles in the opening innings.
Zane Denton hit a two-run homer in the sixth, his second homer in two games. Booker went 3-for-5 and threw out a runner at third to end the fifth.
Tennessee needs more from its starting pitching
The Vols haven't gotten dominant starting pitching this season, and that was the case at LSU. None of the trio of Chase Dollander, Chase Burns, and Beam made it through five innings while also not getting help from the defense.
Dollander was decent Thursday in a duel with LSU ace Paul Skenes. He struck out three in 4⅔ innings and allowed two runs on four hits and three walks. He pitched around trouble in three of the four innings and was touched for a two-run homer.
"He didn’t have his best stuff but he was putting forth a gritty effort which is what we want out of all of our guys," Vitello said. "It could have been worse for him but he battled out there.".
Burns was rough Friday. Tennessee spotted Burns leads multiple times and he allowed LSU right back in. The sophomore allowed five runs on seven hits − all extra-base hits. He had seven strikeouts. Beam gave up eight hits and six runs in four innings Saturday. Only one run was earned, although four of the unearned runs were because of a Beam throwing error.
Halvorsen, Andrew Lindsey, and Camden Sewell were outstanding out of the bullpen. Halvorsen and Lindsey kept UT competitive Thursday and Friday, while Sewell kept LSU at bay Saturday.
Dylan Dreiling can hang
Dreiling started all three games at LSU as the designated hitter and proved he should be one of Tennessee's starters moving forward. The freshman went 5-for-14, including a 2-for-4 showing Friday. He was slotted in the two-hole in Saturday's finale and had two hits.
He showed a solid plate approach against a stout Tigers pitching staff, including smoking a ball to center off Skenes on Thursday.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Unpacking No. 9 Tennessee baseball's series loss at No. 1 LSU