It was announced yesterday that Chase Dollander would take the mound to open the series against Georgia this weekend. For the entire season, Chase Burns had been the Vols’ series opener, but with Burns’ recent struggles along with a logjam in the rotation, Dollander was given his first starting nod since taking a line drive to the arm against Alabama. All he did was keep on doing what he’s done all year, going six strong, striking out six without surrendering a walk as the Vols took game one, 5-2.
The Vols offense got off to a promising start, getting the scoring started early as Trey Lipscomb hit a solo tank to give the Vols a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. It also gave Trey his 20th home run of the season, officially putting him in rarified air as just one of five Vols to ever reach 20 homers in a season. Next step is chasing Sonny Cortez’s all-time mark of 24.
Dollander’s lone blemish on the evening came in the top of the third, surrendering a solo home run to Cole Tate who had a great game in his own right, falling a triple shy of the cycle.
The Vols would take the lead back almost immediately, however. Seth Stephenson reached on an infield single, and a long Luc Lipcius single advanced Stephenson to third, though Lipcius would be thrown out after getting thrown behind as he tried getting back to first base. Stephenson came in to score on a Jordan Beck groundout, and the Vols headed into the fourth with a 2-1 lead, a lead they would maintain for the rest of the game.
If Chase Dollander was the main entrée for the evening, Blake Burke was one hell of an appetizer. Burke hit a home run that may have scraped the moon in the bottom of the fourth, and then he added a no doubter laser in the seventh on the first pitch he saw, even pimping it a little.
Chase Burns came on in relief for Chase Dollander in the seventh and pitched 1.2 innings of one-run ball, striking out three. Burns struck out the side in the seventh, two coming on the breaking stuff and one with the heater.
He got into trouble in the eighth, self inflicted as has become the usual with Burns lately, hitting a batter and then throwing a wild pitch, allowing the runner to advance to second. Burns gave up a double to Cole Tate that drove in a run the very next batter.
Burns would get two outs before being relieved by Redmond Walsh, and Walsh immediately got a strikeout, stranding Tate at third.
The Vols stirred up another threat in the eighth after Gilbert and Lipscomb each drew four-pitch walks. However, Logan Steenstra and Blake Burke would strike out, leaving it up to Evan Russell to deliver a much needed insurance run for the Vols late in the game. Russell did exactly that, singling in Gilbert to give the Vols the 5-2 lead that would ultimately be the final score.
Walsh would remain in and induce a pair of loud fly ball outs before getting Chaney Rogers to ground out to end the game.
Player of the Game
— Burke’s two home runs were major boosts to a frustratingly inconsistent night from the Vols offense. Burke has established himself as a name to watch moving forward perhaps into the later weeks of the season, but even more so over the next two years. After his big night, his slash line sits at .389/.554/.981/1.535 with 9 home runs in 74 plate appearances.
His 19% walk rate is fantastic, and he’s averaging a home run every 8.2 at-bats. Small sample size? Not anymore. Anyone who slugs almost 1.000 through over 70 trips to the plate has proven themselves to be legit. Is it a sustainable pace? No, but the peripherals surrounding the results are equally as promising. Take the second home run that flew off his bat at 110 miles per hour as proof.
A big bulk of his AB’s are coming on Tuesdays, but when he’s gotten his chances in SEC competition, he’s more than held his own. Keep your eyes on this freshman.
Blade Tidwell will toe the rubber in game two as the Vols go for a series win. Tune into SEC Network tomorrow at 5:30 PM ET.