The Vols brought the bats and the brooms to Sunday’s series finale, as Tennessee beat the No. 4-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores 10-5 for its second SEC sweep of the season.
Hunter Ensley hit two home runs and had three RBIs, while Griffin Merritt had a home run, three hits and three RBIs, all while Drew Beam scattered 6 H in 6.2 IP and allowed just one earned-run.
Both teams got a base hit in their respective halves of the first inning, but then the Vols jumped in the car and took the bats to the mailboxes of the neighborhood with four runs on five hits against Vanderbilt starter Devin Futrell.
Merritt led off the inning and made it to first with some help from Vandy third baseman Davis Diaz’s throwing error. Zane Denton followed with a single, but then Cal Stark and Christian Scott both flew out, and it looked like Vandy might escape the frame without any damage done.
But just like yesterday’s nine-run first inning, the Vols put up all their runs in the second today with two outs. Jake Kendro — not known for his bat — doubled to left and scored Merritt, with the error earlier in the inning coming back to bite the Commodores.
B2 | Clutch knock from Kendro on a 3-2 pitch and the Vols strike first!!#GBO // #OTH // #BeatVandy pic.twitter.com/L0dnaLZPNH— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 23, 2023
Maui Ahuna followed with his own double, but this one cleared the bases bringing Kendro and Denton around to score.
With Ahuna already in scoring position, a base hit from Hunter Ensley would’ve brought Maui home, but instead, Ensley took the first pitch outta the ballpark with a rocket over the left-field fence and into the party deck.
B2 | TWO-OUT OFFENSE!!!!!!!— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 23, 2023
Maui drives home two with a double to the gap, then Ensley sends the first pitch for a ride and it is 5-0 Vols just like that!#GBO // #OTH // #BeatVandy pic.twitter.com/YGKDG4okVL
Five hits and four runs in the B2 for the Vols, with all of the production coming with two outs.
The offense went three-up. three-down in the third and the fourth frame, but got volatile again in the bottom of the fifth.
Ahuna struck out on three pitches to lead off the inning, but Hunter Ensley found a phone booth, came out as Superman and took Futrell deep for the second time of the game. Another inside pitch, and another homer, pulling it way over the fence in left field that ended up as the second souvenir for a patron in the porch.
B5 | SOMEONE PLEASE ALERT THE FAA THAT THERE IS A HUNTER ENSLEY HOME RUN IN THIS AIRSPACE— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 23, 2023
He clears the porches with ease and it is 6-0 Vols!#GBO // #OTH // #BeatVandy pic.twitter.com/KnnTD6nPf3
Jared Dickey singled on an 0-1 pitch, and Commodore manager Tim Corbin went Captain Hook on Futrell and brought in Patrick Reilly. Futrell’s final line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R (only two earned), 3 K, 0 BB.
Reilly didn’t fare much better: With one on and one out, he surrendered a base hit to the first batter he faced, Blake Burke. Griffin Merritt took the first pitch for a double to left-center, scoring Dickey and Burke.
B5 | Keep adding on boys!!— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 23, 2023
Griff absolutely rips this one to the gap scoring Dickey and Burke!
Vols 8, Vanderbilt 0#GBO // #OTH // #BeatVandy pic.twitter.com/5WGSUUWpy4
Denton kept things going with a base hit that scored Merritt, but then Reilly sat down the next two hitters via strikeout. The Vols ended the fifth with four runs on five hits and a 9-0 lead.
While Tennessee’s offense built a 9-run cushion for Drew Beam, the sophomore righty gave up just two hits, no runs and three base runners in innings one-through-five.
He got some help along the way — like this Maui Ahuna silly snag and running jump-throw to first made more impressive by the way his momentum was carrying him away from the play and that it was Enrique Bradfield, SEC baseball’s Usain Bolt, he threw out.
M3 | Fantastic play in the hole by Maui to end the third!#GBO // #OTH // #BeatVandy pic.twitter.com/IDYGOueo0I— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 23, 2023
He also made key pitches when he needed to — like in the fourth, the only time in the first five innings that Vandy had multiple base runners in an inning. With two on and two outs, Beam got six-hole hitter Chris Maldonado swinging on some sort of off-speed pitch.
M4 | Big time punchout from Beam to end the top of the fourth and strand two runners!— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 23, 2023
Vols 5, Vanderbilt 0#GBO // #OTH // #BeatVandy pic.twitter.com/UxID0zSaSM
Notice the blown kiss — the entire world can and does hate us, so let them hate us. This team needs that edge.
The Vols didn’t run into trouble until the seventh, when Beam got a lead off strikeout but then gave up two-straight singles and a walk (with an out in between). Bradfield scored a runner on a two-out single, and Vitello sat Beam down for the day and brought in Seth Halvorsen. Zane Denton bobbled a hit to third that allowed another runner to score and kept the bases loaded, with Vandy’s RJ Schrek —hitting .366 and third in the order — up to bat. Halvonsen got him to ground out to second to end the frame, but for the first time in the game, the Commodores showed some life. Two runs on three hits, with UT still ahead 9-2.
Griffin Merritt made it 10-2 again in the B7 with a one-out solo home run to right center that put him in a tie for the team-lead with three RBIs in the game.
B7 | Just keep on hitting Griff!!— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 23, 2023
He blasts that one to the opposite field and its 10-2 Vols!#GBO // #OTH // #BeatVandy pic.twitter.com/5w65vUymM1
In the T8, Jac Bulger took Halvorsen deep for a leadoff home run, then Halvorsen got the next two batters out on five pitches.
But Vanderbilt had some two-out magic of its own, when Halvorsen served up a double and subsequent two-run home run to Davis Diaz, who hits eighth in the lineup and had just the one hit on the day. Vitello pulled Halvorsen for Kirby Connell, and Connell induced a ground ball to Jake Kendro deep in the hole at second that the freshman couldn’t handle and went down for UT’s second error of the game. Bradfield singled, and Connell left the game after just three pitches.
Just like that, it’s 10-5 Vols, and Vitello brought in Aaron Combs. Combs walked the first batter he faced, leaving the bases loaded for RJ Schreck, again. Combs struck Schreck out looking on an 0-2 count, and Vanderbilt’s run was (Combsed) over.
M8 | MASSIVE K, COMBS!!!— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 23, 2023
He strands the bases loaded and the Vols are coming to the plate with a 10-5 advantage.#GBO // #OTH // #BeatVandy pic.twitter.com/6X8lI2GEbA
The Vols brought in Chase Burns to face hitters four-through six in Vandy’s lineup and close out the game. Burns struck out Bulger to start the inning and needed just four pitches to get the final two outs.
- Typical everyday second baseman Christian Moore didn’t play today — he’s gone hitless in 11 at bats during UT’s last four games
- Griffin Merritt might just be coming to life: He had a home run in each game of this three-game series and added five hits and seven RBIs
- Seth Halvorsen has given up eight hits and and seven earned-runs in his last three appearances
- The Vols outscored the Commodores 34-8 during the three-game series sweep
- Chase Burns closed out today’s game, and we may be seeing a shift in his usage. I’ve always felt that he’s more suited as a bullpen guy until he develops his secondary pitches. Obviously he was great as the Friday starter last year, but his struggles as a starter this season have been notable. In this series, he had two relief appearances and a combined stat line of 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB and 8 Ks
- The starting pitching was considerably better this weekend than it’s been for most of SEC play. Friday, Andrew Lindsey’s line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 10 Ks; Saturday, Chase Dollander’s line: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 9 Ks (seven-inning, run-rule game); and today, Drew Beam’s line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 3 Ks. I think this is the first SEC series when all three UT starters lasted at least six innings