On Friday, Tennessee baseball turned a rally into a route.
The Vols beat Auburn 17-4, despite managing just three hits through the game’s first six frames and trailing 4-2 going into the bottom of the seventh.
15 combined runs in the seventh and eighth innings totally changed the complexion of this game. Shocking, right?
UT pushed two runs across in the second via a leadoff single, a subsequent walk and some messy defense from Auburn. But the Tigers erased that lead by touching normally-reliable reliever Will Mabrey for four runs (one of those runs was actually charged to starter Chase Burns) in the sixth.
Evan Russell kicked off the seventh inning with a leadoff double, and the Vols scored five runs before the Tigers forced the first out. UT finished with eight total runs in B7: Cortland Lawson had an RBI base hit. Then Jorel Ortega’s 10th home run of the season came via grand slam, and Russell collected his sixth total base of the inning by taking a 2-2 pitch over the right-field fence for a home run. That 4-2 deficit was now a 10-4 lead.
But there was still air in those sails, as Tennessee hit four dingers and plated seven more runs in the eighth. Freshman behemoth Blake Burke greenlit a 3-0 pitch into orbit over right field, while Ortega and Russell each hit his second home run of the game after that. Trey Lipscomb also added a home run and two RBIs to his SEC-leading pace in both categories.
Tennessee finished with 19 hits on those 17 runs, six different Vols notched at least one run batted in and only Luc Lipcius finished the game without at least one hit.
Friday was Burns’ best outing since his start against Vanderbilt back on April 1st. He surrendered just five hits and one run through five innings while striking out nine. He walked three, all in the third inning, but that opened the door for a moment of tangible maturation, as he ended up striking out three-straight batters to get out of the bases-loaded jam.
He was getting swings-and-misses on the slider and even hit triple digits on the fastball a couple times. It’s good to see him back in his groove.
Kirby Connell and Mark McLaughlin combined for three shut-out frames following Mabrey’s hiccup sixth inning, and McLaughlin got credited with the win.
Tennessee looks to secure a series win tomorrow at 7 PM, and I wouldn’t expect to see Chase Dollander back on the mound yet. Vitello turned to Blade Tidwell and Camden Sewell last Saturday, and the tandem shut down the Gators to the tune of two hits, two walks and zero runs with eight Ks over nine innings.