Photo by University of Tennessee Athletics
By Griffin Hadley
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The quest for a repeat SEC tournament title for the No. 7 seeded Tennessee Volunteers was cut short rather quickly after a 3-0 loss against No. 10 seeded Texas A&M.
The second game at The Hoover Met had less than ideal conditions as it rained continuously until the game was eventually delayed during the top of the ninth inning. The matchup between the Vols and the Aggies was a grudge match filled with elite pitching and less than 10 hits combined from both squads.
In a low scoring affair, the Aggies (33-23) held onto an early lead thanks to elite base running and a solo home run in the top of the sixth inning from freshman outfielder Jace Laviolette.
Redshirt Junior and Missouri transfer Seth Halvorsen started his first game of the season. Halvorsen was effective to start the game retiring the first six hitters he faced. However, Halvorsen was unable to keep his pitch count low and the Aggies were the first to strike as the put across one run in both the third and fourth innings.
Although Halvorsen was able to keep his velocity up, Texas A&M put crooked numbers on the board taking command of a game filled with rain. After four complete innings of work Halvorsen’s day was done. Halvorsen’s final stat line included 83 total pitches, three hits, two runs earned, and six strikeouts.
“Halvy was great for us, he did his job,” Vitello said during his in-game interview on SEC Network+.
The Tennessee bats were cold through the first half of the ball game as each Tennessee batter went down in order through the first five innings. Texas A&M starting pitcher Troy Wansing was lights out early on.
The sophomore left-hander kept his pitch count low and morale high as he kept the Tennessee bats quiet throughout most of the game. In comparison to Halvorsen, Wansing found success early in at-bats and hit the 83-pitch mark during the eighth inning.
The first hit from the Vols came from veteran outfielder Christian Scott in the bottom of the sixth inning. Scott was the first baserunner for the Vols in midst of a near perfect performance from Wansing. However, there was still nothing doing for the Vols.
Fifth-year senior Camden Sewell was productive in his outing as he came on in relief for Halvorsen. The lanky right-hander gave up only one hit in three innings of work. That one hit happened to be the solo home run from Laviolette, and in rainy grudge match one run was a massive dent in the eyes of the Volunteers.
AJ Russell had an impressive outing in his own right, allowing only one hit and no additional runs before the game went in the rain delay.
The scoreboard was filled with zeros for the Vols, hits and runs alike. In eight innings of action before the rain delay the Vols had plenty of hard-hit balls, however, each of them was hit straight to Aggie defenders.
During his in-game interview, Tennessee Head Coach Tony Vitello gave a synopsis of his approach end-of-the-season approach as his team has now started their post season campaign.
“Just to keep pushing forward, I think we had to get some things sorted out on the bases, defensively, pitching, all facets of the game,” Vitello said. “The at-bats have become more team oriented, more relaxed. Obviously, you’re at that time of year where you don’t have many games if you don’t play successfully.
In their first SEC tournament game the Vols did not fit Vitello’s mold and have been bounced from the tournament in the single elimination round.
Tennessee (38-19) will now await their next post season destination after their SEC tournament loss. Coming up next week is the NCAA tournament where the Vols are likely to be a two-seed, traveling to a regional outside of Knoxville for the first time in the last couple of seasons.
The NCAA Selection Show can be seen on ESPN2 at 12:00 p.m. EST on Monday. The 64 teams will be announced and placed in 16 different 4-team regional locations. In the lastest D1 Baseball predictions the Vols landed in the Coral Gable regionals with Miami out of the ACC.