KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Two home runs and five runs batted in from Griffin Merritt, along with an excellent performance on the mound from Andrew Lindsey led No. 23 Tennessee to a 10-6 victory over No. 17 Kentucky in Friday night's series opener at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Volunteers hit five home runs on the night, including three in a seven-run third inning that broke the game open. Merritt two homers tied a career high and pushed him into the team lead for long balls this season with 16.
Hunter Ensley and Jared Dickey also went deep in that decisive third inning in which the Big Orange had five hits and sent 11 batters to the plate. Dickey tied a career high with three hits for the eighth time this season to extend his hitting streak to 13 straight games. The Mount Juliet, Tennessee, native has recorded multiple hits in seven of his last nine games and is now batting an incredible .373 during SEC play.
Lindsey earned his first win of the year after tossing 6.2 strong innings. The redshirt-junior right hander gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and had four strikeouts while throwing a season-high 103 pitches.
Christian Moore also homered again and scored three runs in the game after posting two hits and drawing a pair of walks. Zane Denton had two hits and walked twice, as well, giving the Vols four players with double-digit hits.
Freshman right hander AJ Russell was once again impressive in relief, striking out a pair in one inning of work to get UT out of a two-on, nobody out jam in the eighth inning. Fellow righty Hollis Fanning finished the game with back-to-back strikeouts to halt a Wildcats' rally after they had scored three runs to cut their deficit to four.
Jackson Gray and Devin Burkes both homered and combined to drive in four of Kentucky's six runs. Freshman starter Travis Smith suffered just his second loss of the year after giving up six earned runs on five hits and two walks.
UP NEXT: It'll be a short turnaround for game two of the series as Tennessee (34-16, 13-12 SEC) and Kentucky (34-14, 14-11 SEC) square off at noon ET on Saturday on the SEC Network.