Photo via Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee trailed by seven runs in the sixth inning. Kavares Tears struck out looking, Jake Kendro struck out looking and Christian Scott struck out looking. Florida punched Tennessee in the mouth early-and-often Friday night the Vols sat there and took it.
Tennessee had zero answers as Florida clinched the series victory with a 9-3 win.
Preseason All-American Chase Burns struggled for his fourth straight start and Tennessee’s offense had few answers for the Gators’ onslaught.
Here’s everything to know about Florida’s Friday night win in Knoxville.
More From RTI: Play-By-Play Of Tennessee’s Game Two Loss Against Florida
Chase Burns Struggles … Again
Freshman Chase Burns was not kind to the SEC. The SEC has not been kind to sophomore Chase Burns. The preseason First Team All-American’s struggles continued Friday night in a short outing.
Burns didn’t even record an out before the struggles began as Florida’s first two batters singled to put a pair of runners on-base. The Gallatin, Tennessee native looked like he might get out of the jam when he got a bases loaded strikeout for the inning’s second out.
But it was fool’s gold. Burns walked Colby Halter to bring in a run and Matt Prevesk ground rule doubled to the left center gap bringing home two more runs. Tennessee was fortunate the ball bounced over the fence as it would have otherwise been a bases clearing double.
Things didn’t go much better for Burns in the second inning when Josh Rivera smoked a two-run homer to right center field to extend Florida’s lead to 5-0.
Burns pieced together a solid third inning to keep Florida off the scoreboard but couldn’t carry it over to the fourth inning when Wyatt Langford and Jac Caglianone hit back-to-back homers to right field. Langford’s barely got out while Caglianone went 484 feet— one of the longest home runs I’ve seen at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The sophomore’s final line was 3.1 innings pitched, six hits, seven earned runs, four walks and three strikeouts. Burns gave up just 18 earned runs in all of SEC play last season and has now given up 23 earned runs in four SEC starts this season.
Another Uninspiring Night For Tennessee’s Offense
Tennessee set a season high with 18 strikeouts in Thursday night’s series opener against Florida. The Vols showed improvement striking out 14 times Friday night.
That’s the best thing someone could say about Tennessee’s offense in game two. Zane Denton’s two-run homer in the second inning was the closest the Vols’ bats were to showing life as it answered Florida’s two runs in the top half of the inning.
As Florida pushed its lead to five runs in the fourth inning and then seven runs in the fifth inning, six straight Tennessee batters struck out— four of them looking. The Vols were juiceless against Florida in game two and the two poor innings perfectly encapsulated the team’s performance as a whole.
Tennessee totaled just six hits and worked two walks. While the Vols got runners on base and struggled in the series opener, Tennessee struggled to get runners on base in game two.
More Good Than Bad From Tennessee Bullpen
While Tennessee’s starting pitching was poor Friday night, its bullpen was solid.
For the second straight weekend, Zander Sechrist got action against an SEC opponent. After stranding an inherited runner in the fourth inning, Sechrist allowed a two-run homer in the fifth inning.
It was somewhat surprising Tony Vitello turned to Andrew Lindsey while trailing by seven runs but the Charlotte transfer impressed again. Lindsey has been one of the Vols’ best relievers in SEC play and allowed only one baserunner (on an error) while keeping the Gators off the scoreboard in 1.2 innings of action.
Bryce Jenkins looked as good as any Tennessee pitcher all weekend, striking out the side in the seventh inning before adding two more strikeouts in a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
LHP Jake Fitzgibbons pitched the ninth inning, striking out the side as the Vols bullpen retired the final nine batters they faced.
The group wasn’t perfect but was solid and helped save as many bullpen arms as possible for tomorrow’s series finale.
Tennessee and Florida conclude its weekend series Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. ESPN2 is broadcasting the series finale.