KNOXVILLE, Tenn– Tennessee staged a late rally on Tuesday night against Middle Tennessee, but a six-run second inning gave the Blue Raiders an early lead they would not relinquish in a 7-4 final at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
With the loss, the Volunteers (15-11, 1-8 SEC) move to 35-24 all-time against MTSU (14-15, 3-6 C-USA), including a 15-12 mark in games played in Knoxville. This season, Tennessee is 14-3 in non-conference play.
Offensively, the Vols collected five hits against the Blue Raiders, led by freshman Pete Derkay. Derkay reached base in four of five plate appearances, including three walks and a double. Max Bartlett and Jeff Moberg each drove in runs with RBI singles.
The Volunteers struck early in the game when Moberg drove home Jay Charleston in the bottom of the first. The second frame started off well for the Vols, as senior Jordan Rodgers made a fantastic diving grab to stop a line drive down the third base line. Undeterred by the athletic play, the Blue Raiders strung together a six-run inning to take a 6-1 advantage.
Freshman Andre Lipcius led off the bottom of the second with a walk and came around to score on a fielder’s-choice ground ball off the bat of Benito Santiago. With the next at-bat, Bartlett battled through 13 pitches before smashing an RBI-line drive to center field, bringing Santiago home to trim MT’s lead to 6-3
After Middle Tennessee put up another run in the top of the eighth to extend their lead to 7-3, UT staged a comeback in the bottom of the inning. Designated hitter Derkay punched the ball into deep left field for a leadoff double. After a pair of walks loaded the bases, Justin Ammons reached base on a walk to bring Derkay home and get the Vols within three. With two outs and the bases loaded, a swinging strikeout ended UT’s threat and held the score at its final 7-4.
Zach Warren (2-3) got the start and was charged with the loss for the Vols, while Will Neely, Eric Freeman, Daniel Vasquez, Andrew Schultz, and Jon Lipinski also made appearances in relief on Tuesday.
In his first relief appearance since Feb. 24 vs. Seton Hall as part of the 2017 Tony Gwynn Classic, Freeman entered Tuesday night’s game in the fourth and threw 4.0 scoreless innings vs. the Blue Raiders.
Middle Tennessee was led by Brad Jarreau (2-for-5, 3 RBI) and Kaleb King (2-for-3) at the plate while righty Will Small earned the win in relief, tossing 3.1 scoreless innings after starter Grant Williams.
TENNESSEE QUICK HITS
- Keep on Walking: With three walks on Tuesday night vs. MTSU, Pete Derkaynow has a team-leading 24 walks on the season. Entering UT’s midweek matchup, Derkay ranked tied for sixth in the SEC in walks through 25 games.
- Safety In Numbers: Jordan Rodgers(25), Jeff Moberg (19), and Justin Ammons (12) each own current streaks of reaching base safely for the Volunteers.
- Freshman outfielder Jay Charlestontook his first career start as Tennessee’s leadoff hitter on Tuesday vs. MTSU. He went 1-for-3 with one run scored on the night.
- On Deck for the Vols: Tennessee hits the road to take on its SEC foe Florida Gators (20-9, 5-4 SEC) on Friday, April 7 – Sunday, April 9 in Gainesville, Fla.
Tuesday night’s attendance at Lindsey Nelson Stadium: 1,741