Tennessee dropped Friday’s game against Texas — the No. 1 team in the country — but followed that with two consecutive wins against Baylor and Oklahoma.
I figure the easiest way to do this is take you through each game separately, so we’ll start with the 7-2 loss to Texas.
Chase Burns was just fantastic. His fastball was fine — mid-to-high 90s with not a ton of movement — but it was his slider, or what the announcers were calling his cutter, that was really giving the Texas batters fits.
Chase Burns, Cutters. ✂️— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 5, 2022
10Ks thru 5ip. [Also can touch 100 mpn] pic.twitter.com/N5GuDegGD9
As Pitching Ninja noted, Burns went five innings and struck out ten Texas batters. He allowed just two hits, one walk and one earned run in 81 pitches, and then Tony Vitello pulled him after the 5th.
There was some criticisms on social media about Vitello’s decision, but the way I see it — Burns is a freshman, and he hasn’t thrown more than five innings in his two previous starts. As much as I would have liked to get a win here, especially since Texas sent Tennessee home from last year’s College World Series, there’s no reason to push Burns any further in a relatively unimportant game this early in the season.
Here’s Burns’ season stats through three starts:
Didn’t figure we’d see Burns again — what a game— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) March 5, 2022
Through his first career three starts:
15 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 19 Ks, 3 walks https://t.co/eTCqL5eSoS
Neither team scored a run until the fifth inning when Evan Russell took a Pete Hansen pitch deep to left field. That was the only run Texas’ starter surrendered, and while Hansen doesn’t have the power arm Burns has, his command around the corners of the plate was impressive. He gave up five hits but only surrendered the one run and had one walk.
Camden Sewell took over for Burns in the sixth, and that’s when things went South for the Vols.
Sewell threw 52 pitches on Tuesday. Let's see if that has any affect tonight. https://t.co/JzXwnlDrwg— Ryan Schumpert (@rschump00) March 5, 2022
I don’t know if those 52 mid-week pitches had an effect or not but Sewell wasn’t sharp. He faced six batters and got just one out. He gave up two straight doubles to start the sixth that scored a run, and then Jorel Ortega made an error at second that scored another run on the next batter. Sewell gave up one more run-scoring single before Vitello pulled him, but the damage was done.
Will Mabrey got Tennessee out of that jam, but Texas added two more runs in the seventh off a lead-off bunt that Texas’ Ivan Melendez tripled in and a wild-pitch, walk, single sequence given up by Mabrey’s replacement, Ethan Smith.
All in all, the Vols got seven hits off Texas pitchers but managed just the two runs. Seth Stephenson and Luc Lipcius combined to go 0-9 at the top of Tennessee’s batting order, while Jordan Beck, Drew Gilbert, Trey Lipscomb and Jorel Ortega managed just two total hits between the four of them.
Vols won 10-5
Things got off to a quick start in this one as both teams put up 4-spots in the first inning. Chase Dollander had his first rough start of the season, as he plunked Baylor’s lead-off man, Jack Pineda, and walked the next batter. Baylor feasted on Dollander’s long windup and stole six bases in the inning.
Dollander settled down a bit after the eventful first inning and didn’t allow another run. Overall, he went three IP, allowed just two hits but walked two and had the HBP in the first.
Vitello fiddled with the batting order a bit after the Texas loss, and Jared Dickey and Jorel Ortega hit back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the first to start things off for Tennessee. Jordan Beck and Drew Gilbert followed with two-straight base hits, and Trey Lipscomb scored Beck on a sac fly.
Tennessee scored five more runs in the next two innings on a Christian Scott two-run HR and run-scoring doubles from Evan Russell and Ortega, and Kirby Connell came in to relieve Dollander in the fourth and threw 4.2 innings of one-run ball. He struck out four and got the win.
Vols won 8-0
Freshman Drew Beam started Sunday’s game for the Vols and held the Oklahoma batters to just two hits in five innings of work. He struck out six and walked just won to notch his second win of the year.
Jordan Beck got the Vols off and running in the first with a bomb to left field.
@Vol_Baseball’s Jordan Beck just hit a monster! pic.twitter.com/JBQ7lUNd8H— Prospects Worldwide (@ProspectsWorldW) March 6, 2022
This was Beck’s fourth HR and his 12 RBI for the year, and he ranks second on the team to Trey Lipscomb in both categories.
In the second inning, Christian Moore doubled to left, and Baylor walked three-straight batters that gave Dickey an RBI as it scored Moore from third. Moore was responsible for the bulk of Tennessee’s scoring — he went 3-4 with three RBIs batting seventh and playing DH.
Mabrey, Mark McLaughlin, Ben Joyce and Redmond Walsh pitched four innings of three-hit ball in relief of Beam. McLaughlin and Walsh struck out six of the combined 11 batters they faced.
Big-picture — it was great to see Burns pitch so well against one of the best teams in the country, and the offense came to life following the low-output opening contest.
The Vols come back home for a mid-week series against James Madison on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Rhode Island will be in town for the weekend series next week.