Every Tennessee hitter in the starting lineup had at least one hit, Christian Moore popped off for two home runs and four RBIs while Drew Beam threw a three-hit, one-run gem as the Vols swept the Mississippi State Bulldogs with a 13-2, run-rule win on Saturday.
Saturday’s win also marked two-straight series sweeps for Tennessee and put the Vols over the .500-mark in league play at 11-10.
The Vols’ offense started in a 1-0 hole, thanks to State pushing across an unearned run in the T1. Beam got two quick outs, then three-hole hitter Hunter Hines reached on an error by Vols’ second baseman Christian Moore.
State cleanup hitter Dakota Jordan tripled Hines home when he ripped a 2-1 pitch into left-center field. Beam ended the inning two pitches later, but Tennessee was down 1-0 when it should have started with a clean frame for Beam to open the game..
Turns out, it didn’t matter a whole bunch, as the B1 saw hitters 1-9 make it to the plate for Tennessee.
Maui Ahuna and Hunter Ensley drew back-to-back walks, and then Jared Dickey turned the 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead with a home run to straight-away center.
Dickey’s 10th home run of the season traveled 395 feet with a 101 exit velo, per UT.
Blake Burke and Christian Scott both got sat down, via a grounder and a swinging strikeout, respectively, but we’ve watched this offense improve considerably with its two-out hitting, and we got a taste of it again Saturday in the bottom of the first inning.
Dylan Dreiling walked and then stole second base, Zane Denton took a full-count walk, and eight-hole hitter Christian Scott took the first pitch he saw from State’s ambidextrous pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje to right field for his fifth homer of the year.
Cal Stark grounded out to end the inning, but the Vols went for 6 runs on just two hits and left the inning up 6-1.
Beam needed just 11 pitches to get through the T2, sitting the Bulldogs down in order and striking out the final hitter of the inning, eight-hole hitter Amani Larry, with the bat still on his shoulder.
UT’s bats continued the momentum from the first inning into the second inning, as the top of the lineup came back around. Maui Ahuna singled to lead off the inning, which chased Cijntje from the game. State went to reliever KC Hunt, who pitched a third of an inning in the opener on Thursday and gave up a hit and a run.
This go-around, Hunter Ensley singled, then the Vols tried a double steal, and State got Ahuna out sliding into third. Jared Dickey grounded out, which gave State two outs.
The Bulldogs intentionally walked Blake Burke to get to Christian Moore, a move that backfired when Moore took a 1-1 pitch to right for a three-run homer.
At this point in the game, six of the Vols’ nine runs came with two outs.
Hunt got Griffin Merritt to ground out to end the frame, but UT went for three runs on three hits and led the game 9-1 after two innings.
Drew Beam struck out the first batter in the T3 on three pitches, then needed just nine pitches to get the two remaining outs. Through three frames, Beam faced 11 batters, gave up an unearned run and struck out three on 45 total pitches — 30 of which went for strikes.
Tennessee added to its two-out run figure in the B3. Zane Denton struck out to lead things off, but Christian Scott followed with his second hit of the game and Ahuna brought him home with a single to left after Cal Stark struck out looking.
Hunter Ensley drew a full-count walk, which induced another State pitching change, this time to Cole Cheatham. Dickey flew out to center on the first pitch he saw and ended the frame, as the Bulldogs held the Vols to just one run in the B3. The inning’s final line: two hits, one run, two runners stranded.
Beam struck out three-hole hitter Hunter Hines to lead off the T4 but then passed out a full-count walk to Dakota Jordan. It looked like maybe State could put something together, then Beam induced an inning-ending double play on a grounder from Kellum Clark.
Burke struck out as the first batter of the B4, but Christian Moore launched a full-count pitch over the left-field fence for his first multi-home run game of the season. Moore went 2-5 yesterday, with a home run and two RBIs.
Moore was hitting below .230 in league play before this series, so hopefully this weekend is a launching pad for the remainder of the year. The Vols need him hitting in the middle of the lineup.
The Vols weren’t done in the B4: Griffin Merritt took a four-pitch walk, and Zane Denton took a 2-0 pitch and hammered it into the gap in right-center for an RBI double. Denton’s got 10 hits in his last eight games and seems to be heating up at the right time.
UT ended the fourth inning with two runs on two hits, with one runner stranded.
Beam got three outs in six pitches in the top of the fifth, thanks in part to a nice play in left by Dickey for the second out. At this point, Beam’s given up one hit through five frames with four Ks to just one walk.
State sat down Cheatham in favor of Aaron Nixon, who allowed two hits but struck out two batters and held Tennessee to its first zero of the game. The broadcast got a little weird talking about Nixon and his quads, but I guess that’s just kinda what you get when it’s a 12-1 game. Nixon’s numbers don’t look like a lot of A&M’s relievers who have double-digit ERAs — he’s allowed just three earned runs in 13.1 IP.
State touched Beam for the second time of the game with two outs in the sixth, when two-hole hitter Colton Ledbetter left the park with a mammoth shot to right field. Beam had gotten the first two outs in 10 pitches, including Beam’s fifth K of the game, and after Ledbetter’s blast, Beam struck out Hines for the second time in the game to end the inning with just the one run allowed.
In the B6, the Vols got the Ledbetter run back on Cal Stark’s first hit of the day — a one-out, RBI single to left. UT had two hits, two walks and a one-out, bases-loaded opportunity, but Ensley and Dickey both struck out swinging to leave the bases full. Regardless of the wasted opportunity, it’s good to see Stark get a hit and an RBI. He was hitting .179 in SEC play in 16 appearances prior to today’s game.
In the T7, State singled up the middle to start the inning, but Beam got his fifth ground out and second double play of the game to erase any chance of a comeback for the Bulldogs. Beam got the final batter of the game out via strikeout. His final stat line for the game: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks.
Saturday marked the second run-rule complete game win for Beam on the season, as he struck out 10 and gave up just four hits and two runs in Tennessee’s sweep-erasing win against Florida in the final game of that series.
The Vols are one game away from the end of an eight-game homestand, with a midweek game against Wofford coming on Tuesday at 6:30 PM.
But then Tennessee heads to Georgia for a weekend series in Athens against the 24-19 (8-12 in SEC play) Bulldogs. Tennessee’s just 1-9 on the road so far in SEC play, so the series with UGA is a chance to prove this team can win on the road.