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PREVIEW: No. 9 Vols and No. 14 Tigers set for Top 25 showdown on Rocky Top

The Vols are coming off a 13-5 midweek victory against Eastern Kentucky
Tennessee baseball
Tennessee baseball(Tennessee Athletic Communications)
Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 5:25 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - It’ll be a battle of ranked teams this weekend at Lindsey Nelson Stadium as No. 9 Tennessee hosts No. 14 LSU in its first SEC home series of the year.

The Volunteers are coming off a 13-5 midweek victory against Eastern Kentucky after earning a series win at Georgia to open SEC play last weekend. Friday’s series opener against the Tigers is scheduled for a 6:32 p.m. first pitch.

PROJECTED STARTING PITCHERS

Game 1: RHP Chad Dallas (3-0) vs. RHP Landon Marceaux (2-1)

Game 2: LHP Will Heflin (2-1) vs. RHP Jaden Hill (2-2)

Game 3: RHP Blade Tidwell (3-1) vs. RHP AJ Labas (1-0)

SERIES HISTORY

Overall: LSU leads, 59-22

In Knoxville: LSU leads, 20-13

In Baton Rouge: LSU leads, 36-8

Neutral Sites: LSU leads, 3-1

Last Meeting: L, 9-7 (April 15, 2018)

Tennessee will be looking to end LSU’s recent dominance in the series. The Tigers have won eight straight dating back to 2014 and 15 of the last 16 meetings in the series.

Fast Starts

The Vols have made a habit of getting off to fast starts this season. Through 22 games, the Tennessee has scored in the first or second inning 15 times and has posted a 14-1 record when doing so. After scoring three times in the first inning on Tuesday vs. EKU, Tennessee has scored in the opening frame in four straight games entering this weekend’s series. The Vols’ eight first-inning runs against Arkansas Pine Bluff on Feb. 24 were the most in a first inning during Tony Vitello‘s tenure as head coach. Tennessee is outscoring its opponents 25-3 in the first inning of games this season.

Tidwell Wows in SEC Debut

True freshman Blade Tidwell made one heck of a statement in his SEC debut last Sunday afternoon. The Loretto, Tennessee, native put forth a dominant performance in Tennessee’s 4-1 victory in Sunday’s rubber game at Georgia. Tidwell gave up just one run on four hits while striking out six batters in a career-high 7.1 innings pitched and was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for his efforts. He is scheduled to start in this Sunday’s series finale.

Opening SEC Play on a High Note

UT opened SEC play with a series win at Georgia last weekend, marking the first time the Vols have won their opening series in conference play since 2014. It was also Tennessee’s first series win in Athens since 2016. Tennessee will look to build off that momentum this weekend against LSU, a program it has not won a series against since 2009.

Spence Continues to Rake

Senior shortstop Liam Spence is coming off another impressive week at the plate,  leading the Vols with seven hits and two doubles in four games. In UT’s series at Georgia, Spence hit a team-high .429 while scoring five times and driving in four runs. The Australia native opened the series with a leadoff home run on Friday and reached base in all four games last week. With a single and two walks in Tuesday’s midweek win over Eastern Kentucky, Spence extended his on-base streak to 25 games.

Vols Continue to Climb in the Polls

Tennessee moved up in every poll after posting a 3-1 record last week. The Vols’ current rankings are as follows: USA Today (#9), NCBWA (#10), D1Baseball.com (#12), Baseball America (#16), Perfect Game (#15), Collegiate Baseball News (#27). UT’s No. 9 ranking in the USA Today Top 25 is its highest since being ranked No. 5 by Baseball America, No. 7 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and No. 9 by the NCBWA on March 13, 2006.

OPPONENT SCOUT

LSU Tigers

  • 2021 Record: 16-5 (1-2 SEC)
  • Rankings: USA Today: #16 // D1Baseball.com: #22 // Baseball America: NR // NCBWA: #16 // Collegiate Baseball News: #14 // Perfect Game: #18
  • 2019 Postseason: Hosted Super Regional (0-2)
  • Head Coach: Paul Mainieri (15th season) // Has guided LSU to five CWS appearances and a National Title in 2009.
  • Predicted SEC Finish: 4th (Western Division)
  • Preseason All-SEC Selections:
    Devin Fontenot (1st Team - RP) and Cade Beloso (2nd Team - OF)
  • Stat Leaders:
    Batting Avg: Dylan Crews (.383)
    Runs: Dylan Crews (26)
    Hits: Dylan Crews (31)
    Home Runs: Cade Doughty (8)
    RBI: Cade Doughty (25)
    Stolen Bases: Tre’ Morgan (7-7)
    Wins: Will Hellmers (4)
    ERA (min. 10.0 IP): Landon Marceaux (0.00)
    Innings Pitched: Landon Marceaux (30.0)
    Strikeouts: Landon Marceaux (35)
  • Notable: Leading the nation in home runs with 37. Eight players have hit multiple homers for the Tigers, led by Cade Doughty’s eight.

ON DECK

The Vols cap their five-game homestand with a midweek contest vs. Western Carolina next Tuesday night. First pitch against the Catamounts is slated for 6:30 p.m.

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