Zane Denton hit two home runs, and freshman Dylan Dreiling hit a pinch-hit, two-run double in the fifth that put Tennessee in the lead and the Vols finished off the Texas A&M series sweep with a 9-6 win.
UT’s Sunday starter Drew Beam fared a bit better this week than last week, when he allowed four runs and three walks in three IP. In today’s series finale, Beam lasted 4.1 innings and gave up six hits and three runs, but just two of those runs were earned. He gave up a home run in the first inning, putting the offense in a hole for the third-straight game of the series.
But he settled down some in the second and third innings, allowing no runs, two hits and a wild pitch. He gave up another run in the fourth, when a one-out double was brought home by a sacrifice fly. Vitello let him get the final out of the inning, but when he gave up two-straight singles in the fifth, Tony looked to the bullpen and brought in Seth Halvorsen. But we’ll come back to that moment shortly.
The Aggies ended up scoring another run off a sacrifice fly in the fifth to tie the game at three runs a piece.
The Vols offense had plated two in the third on Denton’s first home run of the game, as the home run brought home Hunter Ensley, who had kicked off the inning with leadoff single.
In the bottom of the fourth, Jared Dickey hit a one-out single, then DH Cal Stark struck out, and Ensley hit a single up the middle. Christian Scott smacked a base hit that scored Dickey, but the inning ended abruptly when Ensley was called out at second. The Vols left the fourth up 3-2.
It was the bottom of the fifth inning when the Vols broke the game open: Denton’s second home run — this time a solo shot — led the frame off, then Christian Moore and Blake Burke followed with back-to-back singles.
Griffin Merritt struck out, but then Jared Dickey got hit by a pitch to keep the inning rolling.
Vitello replaced Cal Stark, who started the game at DH and was 0-2, with freshman Dylan Dreiling, and Dreiling took a 3-1 pitch and roped it into left, which scored both Moore and Burke.
B5 | Go with that pitch, young man!!— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) March 26, 2023
Dylan Dreiling with a pinch-hit, two-out double to the opposite field that scores two and the Vols add on in the fifth, leading 6-3!!#GBO // #OTH // #BeatTAMU pic.twitter.com/WDsnV7YN5Q
Unfortunately, after a Hunter Ensley walk, veteran outfielder Christian Scott ended the inning on a grounder to first. Regardless, Tennessee took control of the game with a four-hit, three-run inning, despite stranding three runners.
A&M didn’t score another run, while the Vols added one run in the sixth when Blake Burke brought Maui Ahuna home, who’d reached on a fielder’s choice as the second batter of the inning.
The Vol bats weren’t done — in the bottom of the seventh, Tennessee plated two more runs, when Jared Dickey and Dylan Dreiling started the inning off with back-to-back walks. Zane Denton notched his fourth and fifth RBIs of the day on a single to left.
The Vols left the seventh up 9-3 with the game well in hand.
As the hitters were spraying hits all over the field in innings four-through-seven, Vitello used a number of pitchers to keep the A&M bats scoreless. Halvorsen got two outs on three pitches and Aaron Combs pitched an inning and gave up a hit but didn’t surrender a run. He also ended the inning with a strikeout when the Aggies had two men on:
Then Zander Sechrist, freshman AJ Russell and Jake Fitzgibbons faced a combined four hitters, each recording an out a piece, with Fitzgibbons being the only one to surrender a walk and also the only one to strike out a batter.
Fitzgibbon’s walk was to the first batter of the eighth inning, and again Vitello went to the bullpen, this time it was Andrew Lindsey coming out of the pen. Lindsey threw 35 pitches over two innings on Saturday, so I don’t imagine Vitello had a long outing planned for hard-throwing, junior righty. Lindsey had the runner on first from Fitzgibbon’s walk and immediately allowed a single. Then he proceeded to strike out three-straight Aggies to end the frame without allowing any damage.
With a 9-3 lead heading into the ninth, Vitello let Lindsey start the inning, but Lindsey walked the leadoff batter. Vitello brought in Kirby Connell, who gave up back-to-back singles before surrendering a run via a ball hit to third that allowed the runner at third to score.
Camden Sewell came on to finish the game, but not without a bit more drama. A&M scored another run when Ahuna made an error at shortstop and then a sacrifice fly scored the Aggies third run of the inning, making it 9-6. Sewell got the final out of the game on a swinging strikeout that brought out the brooms for Tennessee’s first SEC sweep of the season.
- Tennessee’s sixth-through-nine spots in the lineup carried the offense today. Stark started the game in the six spot, but it was freshman Dylan Dreiling who went 1-1 with a double, two RBIs and a walk. Hunter Ensley went 2-2 with a run and a walk in the seventh spot, and even Christian Scott, who’s struggled with the bat all year, managed a hit and an RBI. Then, of course, it was Zane Denton’s day: he finished 3-3 with two runs, two home runs, five RBIs and a walk.
- The Vols used the combination of Andrew Lindsey and Camden Sewell to finish off games on both Saturday and Sunday. It will be something to watch with Sewell the rest of the year, as he’s done just about everything from a pitching standpoint during his UT career. He’s been a spot starter, a bullpen guy and now he’s closed out two-straight games.
- Wild pitches, passed balls, fielding errors and flubs on the basepaths all reared their ugly heads again this series. If Charlie Taylor is behind the plate, it’s better for Tennessee defensively, but then one of the outfield bats has to come out of lineup to make room for Jared Dickey. Then there’s the defense: the Vols have made 10 errors in SEC play compared to just three from their opponents. The necessary context is that those stats are though just two series and really not a big enough of a sample size to draw from, But it’s 100 percent something to watch out for.
After sweeping Texas A&M, the Vols get rewarded with an away series against the No. 1 ranked LSU Tigers next weekend. Tennessee will play its midweek game on Tuesday against UNC Asheville on Tuesday with the first pitch scheduled for 4:30 PM.