LEXINGTON, Ky. – Seth Stephenson and Jorel Ortega ripped consecutive hard-hit singles to open the game for Tennessee baseball at Kentucky on Thursday.
The Vols did not score, setting the tone for an abysmal offensive showing.
“It just seemed painful. I do not know of any other way to say it, “Vols coach Tony Vitello said.” It was just a strange flow to the start of a game or lack there of. “There was a lingering cloud there of maybe we did not do as good of a job as we could have.”
Tennessee left a season-high 15 runners on base, including nine in the first three innings. The No. 1 Vols (41-5, 19-3 SEC) lost 3-2 in 13 innings to Kentucky (25-20, 18-14) at Kentucky Proud Park.
“It hurts a little bit more when you are leaving three, four guys on base,” Vitello said.
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It marked the second time UT lost a series opener in SEC play. The Vols lost to Alabama on April 15 but won the final two games to win the series. UT has won all seven SEC series this season.
Kentucky’s John Thrasher tripled to right field with two outs in the 13th and Alonzo Rubalcaba singled down the line to give UT its first extra-innings loss this season.
Tennessee’s offensive struggles
Tennessee could not capitalize on 12 walks, including seven in the first three innings. Then the Vols had one hit in final 42 plate appearances.
Luc Lipcius singled in the third inning. Ortega had UT’s only hit in the final 10 innings, a single to lead off the 11th. Tennessee did not have a hit in the seven innings between the singles.
The Vols did not have an extra-base hit for the second time this season. They also only had singles in their 3-2 loss against Tennessee Tech on April 12.
UT did not put a runner in scoring position for the final eight innings.
Tennessee had chances early
Tennessee left the bases loaded in each of the first three innings.
UT had four hits and seven walks in the three innings but only scored two runs on a two-out single from Ortega in the second and a Cortland Lawson walk in the third.
Lipcius struck out looking to end the first inning as the Vols failed to score despite getting four runners on. Drew Gilbert flew out to center field in the second. Stephenson and Ortega struck out with the bases loaded in the third following Lawson’s RBI walk.
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Camden Sewell leaves with an injury
Camden Sewell chipped in solid relief work for the third straight weekend, but left the game with an injury in the seventh inning. Vitello said he initially thought it was an oblique injury, but Sewell indicated it was “a little bit higher.”
“It did not make a lot of sense to press the issue at that point,” Vitello said. “I do not know if there is any point you ever want to press that.”
Sewell retired the first two batters of the inning before falling behind 3-0 to Kentucky’s Chase Estep. He threw a strike, then Tony Vitello came out of the dugout and called trainer Jeff Wood to check on Sewell.
The senior struck out two in 2⅓ innings and did not allow a base runner.
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.