KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In what had the feel of a heavyweight fight from the start, No. 4 Tennessee dropped round one to top-ranked Arkansas, 6-5, on Friday night in front of a capacity crowd at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
After holding the Razorbacks off the board to start the game, the Vols struck for five runs in the bottom of the first courtesy of a Jake Rucker two-run double and a Jordan Beck three-run homer, but were held scoreless for the remainder of the night.
Neither starting pitcher had their best night as Chad Dallas and Patrick Wicklander were both pulled before the fifth inning. Wicklander lasted just 2.2 innings, allowing five runs on six hits and two walks, while Dallas was taken out after 4.1 innings of work, allowing five runs on seven hits and three walks.
On the flip side, both team’s bullpens were lights out as neither allowed an earned run in the game. Sean Hunley was the hard-luck loser, dropping to 7-3 on the year after allowing just one unearned run on one hit in 4.2 innings of relief.
The duo of Caden Monke and Kevin Kopps allowed just one hit over the final 6.1 innings as the Razorbacks made some top-notch defensive plays as well to stay within striking distance.
After falling behind 5-0 in the first, Arkansas’s high-powered offense countered with two runs each in the second and third innings on a pair of two-run home runs by Robert Moore and Brady Slavens to cut the UT lead to one.
The Hogs (38-9, 18-7 SEC) tied the game at five with an RBI single by Cayden Wallace in the fifth, and after two scoreless innings, took their first lead of the night with a run in the top of the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Moore.
The Vols had the potential tying run at second base in the eighth after a two-out, pinch-hit double by Kyle Booker, but Kopps got Liam Spence to strike out to end the threat. Spence did finish the game with a pair of hits to extend his nation-leading on-base streak to 50 consecutive games.
Tennessee (38-12 // 17-8 SEC) will look to even the series tomorrow afternoon in game two, which is slated for a 12:02 p.m. first pitch on the SEC Network.
LINDSEY NELSON WAS ROCKIN’: For the first time this season, Lindsey Nelson Stadium was at full capacity and Vol Nation didn’t disappoint. Friday night’s attendance of 3,476 was by far the highest since Tony Vitello took over as head coach in 2018. Another sold out crowd is expected for Saturday and Sunday’s contests.
BECK BLAST: Jordan Beck’s three-run homer in the first inning spotted the Vols an early 5-0 lead. It was the 10th of the year for the sophomore slugger who is now tied for the team lead with 48 RBI. UT has now homered in 12 straight SEC games.