KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In a prospect-studded Thursday night SEC matchup, Tennessee’s Chase Dollander continued showing signs of improved command despite not earning a quality start against the Florida Gators.
Dollander, No. 2 on Baseball Prospect Journal’s MLB Mock Draft 1.0, fanned Florida’s Wyatt Langford to begin the Thursday night tilt. The righty then induced a shallow fly ball to center field via a curveball, before walking Josh Rivera and retiring BT Riopelle to cap the first inning.
Dollander allowed three base runners in his second frame on two hits and an error. An infield hit by Florida’s Michael Robertson resulted in an unearned run.
The Vols’ starter responded in the third inning by retiring the side on 15 pitches.
In the fourth, Dollander gave up a leadoff home run to Cade Kurland, but rallied to draw a shallow fly out, followed by two strikeouts.
Dollander opened the fifth inning with a four-pitch leadoff walk. After giving up a line-drive double to Jac Caglianone in the next at-bat, the right-hander’s outing was done at 93 pitches.
Although he failed to complete five frames, Dollander’s tools were more effective early in the contest. The Tennessee starter consistently drew swing-and-misses with his fastball and moderately worked his off-speed pitches.
According to Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello, the Gators’ lineup stayed on the attack to keep his starter off balance.
“He’s a strike-thrower for us. And sometimes when guys swing and miss, it gets you deeper in the count,” Vitello said after the game. “So, maybe your more susceptible to walk a guy.
“I thought the mindset, the approach was really good execution. You could argue it’s a little bit off, but again, facing a heck of a lineup.”
Since allowing three runs in first two innings against Texas A&M on March 24, Dollander has tossed 13 1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on eight hits.
After Dollander’s start against Texas A&M, which resulted in a Vols’ victory, Dollander cited communication issues with catcher Jared Dickey. It was the battery’s first start together in 2023. The two mentioned how working around PitchCom caused some missed signals, but overall the comfortability of not using the communication system is an upside going forward.
“I actually prefer not having the PitchCom,” Dollander said. “I feel like it makes me go a little too quick, and I don’t do the things I need to do self-talk wise. In that first inning, I didn’t have (PitchCom) and Dickey didn’t know that I didn’t have it. So, it kind of threw us off a little bit. But once we figured that out, it was good.”
Dollander threw 27 pitches in the first inning against Texas A&M. The lengthy inning served as a learning experience for Dollander and Dickey.
“I’m going to take the blame for that,” Dickey said. “I had the PitchCom on and so did all the infielders, but (Dollander) didn’t because he didn’t want to use it. I was supposed to be giving signs. To be honest with you, I was so sped-up that I completely forgot. So, that was on me.”
On Thursday, Dollander and Tennessee couldn’t overcome a potent Florida offense that ranked sixth in scoring and 14th in on-base percentage coming into Knoxville. The Vols left bases loaded twice in the game, with the last instance coming on the last out of the game, as Florida’s Brandon Neely struck out Blake Burke looking. Florida’s 6-1 victory over Tennessee on Thursday snapped a five-game losing streak in the rivalry.
Dollander finished with seven strikeouts and three walks. The junior right-hander has recorded more than three walks in a contest just once in his college career. Dollander moves to 4-3 on the season, posting a 4.19 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
Learn more about Dollander’s MLB draft prospect status by reading a draft profile HERE.