The offense put up at least one run in every inning except the eighth — with six of the frames being multi-run sides — while the pitching staff worked a combined perfect game through 6.1 IP as the Vols dismantled Bellarmine 19-1.
Vitello started Zander Sechrist, and he worked two innings, faced the minimum six batters, struck out one and tossed 17 of his 22 total pitches for strikes.
While the pitching staff was doing its thing, the bats carried the momentum from the sweep of Vanderbilt into Tuesday’s game. Also worth noting — in the B1, the first run of the game was a Griffin Merritt single that scored Jared Dickey and came with two outs. Maui Ahuna grounded out to start the inning, Hunter Ensley struck out, then Dickey took a four-pitch walk and Blake Burke singled into right. So the positives here: Merritt continuing to swing the bat well, Tennessee taking advantage of runners in scoring position and plating runs with two outs.
In the B2, Dylan Dreiling got a pitch low and inside, turned on it and absolutely crushed it out of the ball park.
B2 | ⚠️ Please purchase some extra insurance if you plan on driving down Todd Helton Dr. ⚠️— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 25, 2023
Dylan absolutely smokes this one outta here and it's 2-0 Vols!!#GBO // #OTH // #BeatBellarmine pic.twitter.com/4Wt4TBeJ0X
Per UT, Dreiling’s full-count, leadoff home run traveled 434 feet with a 108 MPH exit velocity. Just a reminder that Dreiling’s a freshman and has the third-best batting average on the team in SEC play (necessary context — before the Vandy series, nobody was hitting very well, so Dreiling ranking third at .270 is, well, just kinda what it is). Either way, you need sunglasses if you're looking into Dreiling’s future at UT.
The Vols weren’t done in the second — Charlie Taylor managed a base hit, something he doesn’t do a whole lot, but then he stole second and Maui Ahuna brought him home with a double to right field. Hunter Ensley followed with a single, but neither Jared Dickey nor Blake Burke could bring the two Vols on the bases home.
Tennessee scored two runs in second, third and fourth innings: Dreiling tripled in the third to score Christian Moore, and Jake Kendro brought him home with a squeeze bunt down the first-base line. In the fourth, Jared Dickey took the first pitch of the inning for a home run to right field:
Burke followed with a single and made it to third via a passed ball and a fielder’s choice play, and Dreiling brought him home with a sac fly.
Then the offense really got cranked up in the fifth and sixth innings, plating four runs in each frame.
Freshman Reese Chapman, a top-five recruit in Tennessee’s 2022 freshman class, pinch hit for Hunter Ensley in the fifth, took a 2-0 pitch to right field for a base hit and scored Jake Kendro, who’d led the inning off with a walk.
Two pitches later, Christian Scott hit his fourth home run of the season, a three-run shot to right-center field:
B5 | The first four men have reached and the first four men have scored in the 5th! C. Scott bops this one over the wall for a three-run tank and it's 11-0 Vols!#GBO // #OTH // #BeatBellarmine pic.twitter.com/yxm5CFddPq— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) April 26, 2023
The Vols drew two more walks in the inning, but ended up stranding them with outs from Logan Chambers and Taylor.
In the B6, it was Reese Chapman again, but he went all Vladimir Guerrero on the poor Bellarmine pitcher by smashing a ball that up and out of the zone and at least a foot above where the catcher was expecting it:
Like Dreiling, Chapman showed MLB-level HR-distance and exit velocity, at 400 feet and 101 MPH, respectively. I’m hoping we get to see more of Chapman through the rest of SEC play, possibly doing some situational hitting like we saw from Burke and Christian Moore last season.
Redshirt sophomore, reserve catcher Ryan Miller, who had six plate appearances and one home run on the season, came out of literally nowhere tonight and exploded for three-run home runs in back-to-back innings in the B6 and B7. Here’s the shot from the sixth:
And this one from the seventh:
CHECK THE BATS!
Again — two-out run production with runners in scoring position. The Vols have been bottom of the league in both categories for most of the season, and obviously doing this against Bellarmine isn’t a one-to-one comparison to doing it against an SEC opponent, but it’s nice to see 1) the offense continuing whatever momentum they may have kicked into motion against Vandy and 2) some of the younger fellas who don’t see the field often get some experience they need.
I’d purposefully not been mentioning much about the pitching staff because the Vols were working on a combined perfect game/ no-hitter until the top of the sixth when Bryce Jenkins gave up the first hit of the game for Bellarmine. Jenkins struck out two of the three batters he faced, but the one hit spoiled the perfect game opportunity.
No hate on Jenkins, especially since Bellarmine ended up scoring a run on a solo home run off freshman pitcher JJ Garcia in the next frame. But still, in two innings, the no hitter, the perfect game and the shut out all went out the window.
Vitello let Garcia pitch the entire eighth inning but brought in Hollis Fanning to finish the game, and he did so by striking out the side. Fanning’s ERA is down to 1.23 for the season, while Jacob Bimbi got his second win of the season.
The Vol pitcher’s combined numbers: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 12 Ks.
- 12 of the 17 Tennessee batters who played had at least one hit
- Ryan Miller’s six RBIs doubled his season total thus far. His final line: 2-2, with two home runs, six RBIs and a walk
- Dylan Dreiling’s season average is up to .324 after going 2-2 with a home run, a triple and three RBIs
- Christian Scott finished second on the team in RBIs this game with his 2-2 and four RBI performance at the plate
- Reese Chapman didn’t start, but came in as a pinch-hitter and went 2-2 with a home run and two RBIs. The outfield is in good hands with Chapman, Tears, Ensley and Dylan Dreiling all being underclassmen.
- Five Vols homered tonight: Jared Dickey, Chapman, Christian Scott, Ryan Miller (2x) and Dreiling
- Pitcher AJ Russell, another freshman, struck out two in his one inning of work on 18 total pitches. His ERA is 0.55 for the year in 13 appearances
- Vitello let fellow freshman Andrew Behnke toss an inning, and he sat his batters down in order with one strikeout in just his third appearance of the season.
Tennessee welcomes Mississippi State to LNS this weekend, with a three-game series against the Bulldogs that are 24-17 overall but just 6-12 in league play and in next-to-last place in the West. It’s a Thursday-Saturday series this weekend, with Andrew Lindsey likely to get the ball in game one. First pitch is scheduled for 7 PM EST.