The Tennessee baseball team got their season off to a red-hot start by completing a weekend sweep that saw the Vols shut out the Appalachian State Mountaineers each game of the rain-soaked three game series at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. It was not only a great way to kick off the year, but also a weekend for the record books as it was the first time in program history the Vols have had a team complete a series sweep with consecutive shutouts in each game.
In the season opener, Tennessee starting pitcher Garrett Stallings was nearly flawless as he help the Vols cruise to the 6-0 win while allowing just one hit in seven innings. He would also set a new career-high with eight strikeouts, while allowing zero walks. It was a night to remember for the junior Chesapeake, Virginia native as he looks to build on what was standout summer in the vaunted Cape Cod league after struggling to close out last season as the team’s ace.
Redshirt sophomore Redmond Walsh and freshman Chase Silseth would each provide the Vols with an inning of relief to finish the game out. Walsh recorded a single strikeout and allowed one walk while Silseth threw a perfect ninth inning in his first career appearance.
The offense was led in game one by sophomore cleanup hitter Evan Russell (2-for-4, HR, RBI, 2 R) and junior leadoff man Justin Ammons (1-for-3, HR, RBI) who each hit homers for the Vols. Another pair of juniors Pete Derkay (1-for-3, 2B, R) and Luc Lipcius (1-for-3, 2B, R, RBI) would each hit doubles for the Vols in game 1.
On Saturday, junior Zach Linginfelter got the Vols through five shut out frames while tallying five strikeouts and allowing two hits and three walks. He would also prove to be the winning pitcher in the Vol’s second win in as many games. To continue the trend of stellar pitching, sophomore lefty Garrett Crochet followed Linginfelter’s five scoreless innings with four perfect innings. He would set a new career high striking out nine of the twelve batters he faced en route to notching his first save of the season.
Russell (1-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI) led the Vols at the dish for the second day in a row as he drove in Tennessee’s only two runs of the game. Ammons, Derkay, and Lupcius would also each add one hit a piece in the second game of the series.
The Vols wrapped up the historic weekend sweep with a soggy Sunday victory over the Mountaineers by a score of 3-0. Senior starting pitcher Will Neely, a Knoxville native, picked up his first victory of the season tossing seven scoreless innings while allowing six hits, zero walks and striking out four batters. Tennessee would again rely on a pair of relievers to shut the door. Sophomore Chase Wallace and junior Andrew Schultz each hung zeros in the last two frames. Wallace struck out two batters and allowed no hits or walks. Shultz would allow one walk, but struck out the side in the ninth to get his first save of the season.
Evan Russell (1-for-3, HR, RBI, R) once again helped the Vols at the plate in the series finale as he hit his second dinger of the series. The Vols would be led at the plate however by junior college transfer Landon Gray (3-for-4, HR, RBI, R). Ammons and Lipcius would again each add a hit as they finished the first series with three game hitting streaks.
Coming into the season, it was the Vols pitching staff that many said would be the backbone of the 2019 squad and through one series that has looked like a spot-on assessment. Tennessee will look to ride projected starting pitcher Sean Hunley to their fourth straight win in their next game on Tuesday at 4:30 against Northern Kentucky. The sophomore will be starting the first ever game between the two programs.