Tennessee baseball got its 11th-straight win today as they finalized a Gonzaga-series sweep with a nine-run victory.
None of the games were particularly close, with the Vols winning 8-2 Friday, 7-2 Saturday and then the offensive exhibition of a 17-8 win on Sunday.
FRIDAY: Once again, Tennessee fans were treated to a double-digit strikeout outing from ace starter Chase Dollander, but this time he didn’t give up a run or a walk in six innings. He struck out 11 and only gave up one multiple-hit inning — the first. But Dollander responded with two-straight punchouts and a ground-ball out to second to end the frame.
He’s struck out 13 batters in his last two outings and just two earned-runs. Marvel at the 11 wondrous Ks from Dollander below:
We get the high-heat, the batter freezing up in the box on a back-door breaking ball and what looked like a couple changeups, maybe, or just fastballs with a little arm-side run. Either way — a nasty outing with a lot of missed bats from Dollander in what was his best outing of the year.
Gotta love the passion from Lil’ Doe here that the haters will surely twist into him disrespecting the game, somehow. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Max Sherzer or Liam Hendricks.
The offense, though, well, it took a while to get going. It went into the fifth with a zero on the scoreboard, despite hits in the first, second and fourth. though the bats stranded five runners through those first four innings. It was Christian Moore’s second home run of the year in the bottom of the fifth that put Tennessee on the board.
Naturally, a little pimping with the bat flip was included, as is Tennessee’s style.
Moore’s energy must’ve been contagious, because the Vols scored each of their other six runs in the next trip to the plate (bottom of the sixth). Zane Denton got things rolling with a leadoff, solo shot. Maui Ahuna walked and stole second. Hunter Ensley walked, then the Vols pulled the double steal to get both Ahuna and Ensley into scoring position. Charlie Taylor walked, then Jared Dickey got hit by a pitch that scored Ahuna.
Christian Moore walked, which drove in Ensley, then Tennessee got its second run off a hit when Blake Burke singled to score Taylor and Dickey. UT batted around in the inning — as Zane Denton and Griffin Merritt both walked before Ahuna grounded out to second to end the inning and stranded three runners.
The Vols used three pitchers after Dollander’s six innings of work: Kirby Connell pitched an yinning and struck out one of the three batters he faced. Zach Joyce and sophomore Aaron Combs each pitched an inning, and none of the relievers surrendered a hit, run or a walk.
SATURDAY: This time, the offense’s slow start had the team down 2-0 to Gonzaga in the second inning. In the bottom of the first, the offense got two consecutive singles, a wild pitch and a walk but failed to score a run.
Sophomore Chase Burns struck out one in the first and two in the second, but with two outs in the second frame, he gave up a two-run double to give the ‘Zags the lead. Burns bounced back in the third with an inning-ending strikeout after he gave up a two-run double.
Christian Moore kicked off the bottom of the third with a leadoff walk, and Blake Burke followed him with a double that didn’t score Moore. Merritt scored Moore with a sac fly, but Ahuna flew out to end the inning right after.
The Vols didn’t tie the game until the sixth, with Kyle Booker’s solo home run. The homer was Booker’s seventh hit and first HR of the year. There’s some serious competition in the outfield, and the junior hasn’t been producing offensively like I think the staff was/ is hoping for. But he’s raised his average to .250 with four hits in the last three games.
Once again, a one-run inning preceded a multi-run inning, as the Vols scored five in the seventh after one in the sixth. Taylor struck out to start the frame, but Dickey and Moore walked, setting the stage for Blake Burke’s monstrous, go-ahead, three-run home run.
Burke finished the game going 3-5 with the home run and three RBIs. If he continues at this pace, he’s gonna break some records.
Starter Chase Burns gave up the two runs early, but he didn’t allow another run in 6.1 innings. He gave up five hits and two walks in 86 pitches. He was hitting 98-MPH early in the game and continues to stifle hitters with the fastball/ slider combo.
Kirby Connell and his mustache entered the game with one out in the sixth, and he struck out one of the two batters he faced. Vitello used Seth Halvorsen to finish the game, and he went two innings, struck out two and gave up just one hit in 22 pitches. Halvorsen got some help from Ahuna on this play at second:
As much as Tennessee was looking forward to his nearly .400 average from last season, these are the kinda plays that Ahuna makes look ho-hum. Tennessee’s needed some defensive help in the infield over the last few years.
SUNDAY: The final game of the series was unkind to any pitchers, as the two teams combined for 28 runs. Only the first and second innings were safe — after that, it was baseballs flying around and out of LN.
Tennessee blew the game open in the third: A Jared Dickey grand slam, then a three-run Maui Ahuna double followed by a two-run shot from Christian Moore.
Griffin Merritt hit a two-run blast in the fourth, then Zane Denton and Ahuna each hit sac flies in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. In the eight, Ahuna and Logan Chamber got RBIs on non-hits, before Denton tripled in two runs and Moore singled in one run.
The staff obviously had a rough day — Gonzaga’s four-hole hitter and third baseman Brian Kalmer hit three home runs on a 4-5 day with five RBIs and three runs. Those five RBIs represent more runs than a team might score in a full, nine-inning affair.
Beam started and threw just 57 of his 85 pitches for strikes and gave up seven hits and four runs (three earned). Bryce Jenkins came on in relief and got the win — he pitched 1.2 innings and gave up one run, one walk and one hit.
Andrew Lindsey, AJ Fitzgibbons and Jacob Bimbi each pitched at least one inning and each gave up at least one hit and one run. All three managed at least one strikeout, but it obviously wasn’t the group’s best day.
Maybe the best news of Sunday’s game: the Vols scored 17 runs in a hitless outing from Burke. He’s hitting .457 with 21 hits, 21 RBIs and seven home runs. Five of those home runs have come over the last seven games.
Tennessee continues its home stand against Boston College for one game on Tuesday before Moorehead State comes to town for the weekend series.