It was an entertaining weekend of baseball in Gainesville, and following yet another weekend sweep, Tennessee returns home to host a surging Auburn squad. Capped off by this incredible walk-off home run robbery by Christian Scott, the Vols are poised to keep their season of dominance rolling.
How to Watch
Friday 4/29: SEC Network @ 7 PM ET
Saturday 4/30: SEC Network @ 7 PM ET
Sunday 5/1: SEC Network+ @ 1 PM ET
The Vols routed Xavier 10-1 on Tuesday night, and they’ll head into Friday 38-3 and still number one in the country. As for Auburn, they’re surging at the right time. Ranked 19th in the nation, they, too, are coming off a sweep and a Tuesday victory over Jacksonville State. They’ve now won four of their last five series, and their sweep of South Carolina was their first series sweep in SEC play since 2019. Playing well at the right time is a key in any sport, and they are hitting their stride as necessary.
Auburn boasts perhaps the best hitter in the country, first baseman Sonny DiChiara. The 6-1, 263 pounder absolutely MASHES. He leads the nation in batting average (.446), and his on-base percentage sits at an outrageous .601. Needless to say he leads the nation in that as well, as does his 1.457 OPS. He’s very clearly someone the Vols will need to pitch to carefully.
As for pitching, it’s been better as of late for Auburn, and that’s translated well to their aforementioned recent results in SEC play. It’s largely come on the arm of Joseph Gonzalez. Gonzalez has become their mainstay on Sundays lately, and he’s been as good as anyone in the country this year, and especially lately. In April, Gonzalez has dazzled, throwing 30 innings over four starts to the tune of a 1.50 ERA, 4.09 FIP, and 1.100 WHIP. He tossed a complete game against Vanderbilt on April 10, capping off a huge series win. He doesn’t walk hardly anyone, and he’s been terrific pitching around traffic, allowing just 7 runs despite allowing 34 baserunners.
Vols Impact Players
Starting pitching is perhaps the biggest key to winning there is, and if you want to check out just how dominant the Vols’ three-headed weekend monster has been, you can see that here, and I promise not to jinx them anymore.
Chase Burns got roughed up against Alabama in the loss that subsequently broke the Vols’ SEC record-setting 12-0 start in SEC play. However, the freshman bounced back very well against Florida, tossing 6.1 innings of two-run ball (one earned), striking out five and walking three in an 8-2 victory.
It will be integral for him to continue with another strong start, and most importantly, not issue free passes. In the SEC, Burns has the twelfth-most walks, and his struggles with controlling the running game can make those walks an endless itch.
Ortega’s steady grind has been rewarded as of late, and the hard work we’ve all seen is paying off, translating to a fantastic April. Ortega’s slash line for the month sits at .365/.421/.750 with an OPS of 1.171. The best part? It doesn’t even tell the whole story.
The redshirt sophomore from Puerto Rico has been RAKING since the start of the Alabama series, and his latest successes have all come from the two-hole in the Vols lineup. Over his last seven games, basically since the start of the Alabama series, Ortega is slashing .406/.457/.875 with a 1.332 OPS, hitting four home runs in 32 at-bats, and that’s with a 1-for-11 skid against Florida mixed in there.
That’s fantastic production out of your second hitter. He’s serving as a table setter for the abundance of great hitters that follow him, but he’s also being put in a great spot to do damage and he’s thriving.
As the Vols look for another series and potential sweep, Ortega will look to get his bat back on track to where it was before Florida.
Possible Pitching Matchups
Friday: Hayden Mullins/Trace Bright vs. Chase Burns
Season Stats (5.63 is national average ERA and FIP)
H. Mullins: 2-1 | 33 IP | 3.55 ERA | 6.23 FIP | 1.394 WHIP | 27.8 K% | 15.9 BB% | 11.9 K-BB%
T. Bright: 2-4 | 51 IP | 4.24 ERA | 4.53 FIP | 1.353 WHIP | 25.3 K% | 10.6 BB% | 14.7 K-BB%
C. Burns: 7-1 | 51 IP | 2.12 ERA | 4.51 FIP | 1.000 WHIP | 32.2 K% | 8.8 BB% | 23.4 K-BB%
Saturday: Hayden Mullins/Trace Bright vs. Chase Dollander/Blade Tidwell
C.Dollander: 6-0 | 46 IP | 2.93 ERA | 3.06 FIP | 0.804 WHIP | 40.4 K% | 4.5 BB% | 35.9 K-BB%
B. Tidwell: 1-0 | 11.1 IP | 1.59 ERA | 1.19 FIP | 0.882 WHIP | 43.5 K% | 2.2 BB% | 41.3 K-BB%
Sunday: Joseph Gonzalez vs. Drew Beam
J. Gonzalez: 6-0 | 47.1 IP | 1.71 ERA | 3.94 FIP | 1.120 WHIP | 17.7 K% | 3.6 BB% | 14.1 K-BB%
D. Beam: 8-0 | 58 IP | 1.86 ERA | 4.42 FIP | 0.621 WHIP | 22.2 K% | 4.2 BB% | 18.0 K-BB%
Sunday is set up to be the best game of the weekend, and one of the better pitching matchups of the season. Two guys who pitch to contact and don’t walk anyone will surely be a treat to bookend what’s sure to be a great top 25 series.