Though Hendon Hooker wasn’t between the lines tonight, the BaseVols super-powered offense put up four touchdowns and a missed extra point try in game one in Starkville, winning 27-2.
Hanging crooked numbers in seven innings, it’s safe to say the Vols’ offense is clicking again, and at the right time. Tennessee has now scored 41 runs over their last two games, and the production is scattered all over the lineup.
The night started off hot with Luc Lipcius, Jordan Beck, and Drew Gilbert hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs off of Brandon Smith, putting the Vols up 3-0 in the first. After a silent second inning, they were back at it in the third, scoring five runs while sending all nine batters to the plate. Four of those five runs came with two outs, capped off with Blake Burke hitting a three run moonshot to right, blowing the game wide open, 8-0.
While the Vols’ bats were doing their thing, Chase Dollander looked efficient through his first four innings, allowing just one baserunner on a walk that should’ve been a strikeout. The home plate umpire missed a clear strike three in a 2-2 count that led to State’s lone baserunner all night against Dollander.
The Vols kept with their two-out scoring theme in the fifth, plating three more runs with two down. Evan Russell drove in Trey Lipscomb with a double, one of his three on the night, and Seth Stephenson drove in Russell and Lawson following a walk with a 2-RBI single.
The bottom half of the fifth is where Chase Dollander’s efficient night turned dominant. All game long, Mississippi State hitters were either trying to ambush Dollander or get to him in the first couple pitches of at-bats but to no success. In the fifth, Dollander began to get ahead in counts, and he struck out the side in order for his third, fourth, and fifth strikeouts.
Jorel Ortega’s big night continued in the top half of the sixth, powering a three-run home run, extending the Vols’ lead to 14-0. Dollander continued to mow down State hitters in the bottom half which would be his final inning, notching his sixth and final strikeout of the night, all without allowing a hit.
The number seven seemed to be a theme of the evening. With an already insurmountable lead, the Vols’ bats decided they wanted to make some history in the seventh. Following a Christian Scott hit-by-pitch, Luc Lipcius hit his second home run of the night, bringing him within one of tying Todd Helton’s all-time career home run mark of 38. Evan Russell is also one shy of this mark. The merry-go-round of the Vols lineup continued to circle bringing 12 batters to the plate in the inning, capped off with Evan Russell’s third double of the night to drive in the Vols’ 20th run of the game. They plated seven in the inning.
Thanks to a 40-minute, seven run outburst in the top half, Chase Dollander was unable to continue his chase for history. Mark McLaughlin relieved him and immediately served up Mississippi State’s first two hits of the game. The second hit also drove in State’s first run, but Jordan Beck gunned down catcher Logan Tanner at the plate. This sparked some controversy either caused by State stealing a base down 21 or Tanner’s high slide into home, regardless, it didn’t cause too much of a stir, or at least what we’ve come accustomed to this year.
Jorel Ortega hit his second homer of the night in the eighth, helping the Vols tie a school record for most home runs in a game with seven.
Tanner Leggett hit a solo shot in the bottom half of the eighth, giving State their second and final run.
Logan Steenstra roped a double that cleared the bases, making it a 26-2 game. Ortega’s eighth RBI of the night came on a double that nearly left the yard. Ortega drove in eight of the 27 runs on his own, a phenomenal performance.
Zander Sechrist came in for the final inning, striking out the side in order, giving the Vols a 27-2 victory in game one.
Player of the Game
— In a 27 run outburst the pitcher is the player of the game? Yes, and if it weren’t for those damn bats being so good in the seventh, Dollander may have gotten a chance to chase a no-hitter.
He fanned six on the night, and his stuff was flat out dominant. Four of his six K’s came on the slider, one with the curve, and his final came on 97 up and in. He’s been locked in since the start of SEC play, becoming the most dominant starting pitcher in the conference, and arguably the country. His nation-leading WHIP is somehow substantially better in conference play.
Following tonight, Dollander now leads the SEC in virtually everything in conference games only stats. His 1.67 ERA and 0.581 WHIP in SEC play lead the conference, and his .151/.172/.309/.481 slash line against with a 13-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio is just preposterous. From being very worried about his health following the injury against Alabama to becoming THE Ace on a team with four of them is quite the journey.
Tune in for game two tomorrow as the Vols look to continue their hot hitting with Chase Burns taking the mound.