WHAT HAPPENED: Tennessee scored four runs in the fourth inning and six in the sixth to blow out East Tennessee State 11-2 in front of 1,590 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in the Vols’ final home game of the 2016 season.
Tennessee improved to 27-26. The Bucs fell to 23-28.
The Vols got on the board in the third with an RBI single by senior Vincent Jackson, then made it 2-0 in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by junior Max Bartlett.
With two outs in the inning and catcher Tyler Schultz on third, senior Chris Hall it a grounder to the right side that appeared ready to end the inning. However, Hall sprinted down the line, ETSU first baseman Kevin Phillips drifted toward second base to try to field the ball off the bat and didn’t get back to the bag when he received the throw. Schultz scored on the infield single to make it 3-0.
Junior Nick Senzel followed with a double into the right field corner to score sophomore Brodie Leftridge, who had gone to third on Hall’s hit, and Hall to make it 5-0.
Bartlett started the sixth by reaching on an error by Phillips and scored when Leftridge tripled to right center field. Hall lined a single up the middle to score Leftridge. Senzel singled to left to send Hall to third, and Hall went to third on a flyout by Jackson. Sophomore Benito Santiago walked to load the bases, Lance singled in a run and Schultz singled in two runs. Sophomore Brett Langhorne drove in the final UT run with an RBI single.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Hall’s infield single in the fourth sparked the entire offense, and he finished his final game at Lindsey Nelson Stadium 3-for-3 with two RBI and three runs scored. Lance went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI. Leftridge had the same line, going 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI.
Schultz was 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run, and Senzel was 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run. All nine Tennessee starters either scored a run or drove one in.
The Vols used seven pitchers on a staff day. They scattered nine hits and walked just two batters.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Vols offensive philosophy early in the season was to keep the line moving, find ways to get on base, string hits together and put up crooked numbers in innings. They had struggled to do that much of the second half of the season and had only cracked double-digit runs once in the previous 26 games.
Tennessee found it much easier to do that on a staff day for both teams facing an ETSU squad that had a 6.91 ERA going into the day. Hall’s infield single provided a spark, and the Vols sent a combined 19 hitters to the plate in the fourth and sixth innings alone.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The win itself means little, though it does give the Vols just the slightest cushion for a winning season heading into this weekend’s series in Athens. But it could possibly give them some momentum when they need it the most.
The Vols have been strong in mid-week play for much of the year and it hasn’t carried over to the SEC weekends. Hanging 11 runs on ETSU does not necessarily portend anything about what they might be able to do against Georgia. But at the very least it serves as a reminder to the Vols of what it feels like to get offense all the way down the lineup and what it’s like to blow a team out. There isn’t much more they could have asked for from a mid-week game going into the series that they need to win and may need to sweep to keep their season alive.