It took a bit for the bats to really liven up in Tennessee’s regional opener against Alabama State. But then the Vols scored five runs in the sixth, and Blade Tidwell turned in a dominant start en route to the 10-0 win.
The slow start wasn’t a non-start — the bats pushed across one run in each of the second, fourth and fifth innings. A Trey Lipscomb leadoff single turned into a run after a Jorel Ortega double in the second frame, and then an Ortega solo home run made it a 2-0 game in the fourth.
Seth Stephenson’s leadoff single kicked off a fifth, and then he stole second before Luc Lipcius’ single put him on third for Jordan Beck. Beck’s first-pitch sac fly scored Stephenson, which gave Tennessee starter Blade Tidwell a three-run cushion.
Turns out, one doesn’t need much margin for error if he or she doesn’t make any errors.
Tidwell gave up just three hits in his 7.2 innings of work and didn’t allow a walk or a run. He had the off-speed stuff cooking, and though I don’t have the exact count, I know at least four of those Ks came via the curve or slider. He threw 64 of his 93 pitches for strikes.
It was a Blake Burke walk that kicked off the lively sixth inning, but it was Charlie Taylor who endeared himself to VolNation with a perfectly-placed squeeze bunt that scored Burke after a Cortland Lawson single. Taylor, who hit, 076 coming into the game, hit the batter’s box to “let’s go, Charlie,” chants for the rest of the game.
Lipcius singled a batter later — he went 3-4 out of the two hole for the game — and then Jordan Beck demolished a ball that went over the wall, past the Porch and entirely out of the ball park.
Literally at that exact moment, I was telling my dad how Beck had spent a lot of this season looking more like he’s overrated than like our best player. Foot, meet mouth.
Tennessee went Beck-to-back, as Drew Gilbert pulled a home run out to right as the next batter. Gilbert had been 0-3 at the time, with runners on base each time he failed to record a hit.
It was five runs on four hits, and the Vols never looked back. Beck smashed another home run in the eighth, while Burke added another clip to his compilation of swings that look like Ken Griffey, Jr., in the seventh.
Before the game, Tennessee announced that Evan Russell wouldn’t be available, and that Tony Vitello would address it after the game. VolQuest baseball beat reporter Ben McKee noted that Russell wasn’t injured and wouldn’t be in the dugout during the game. After the game, Vitello said that Russell was “sick,” this morning and that he didn’t know if Russell would be available tomorrow.
Tennessee plays Campbell Saturday at 7 PM. The Campbell Camels, the regional’s three seed, beat two-seed Georgia Tech 15-8 Friday.