Tennessee dropped the first two games against Florida on Thursday and Friday night. On Saturday afternoon in rainy Knoxville, they were looking to avoid the sweep.
They did just that.
Drew Beam got the ball on the mound for the Volunteers, and started things out with a couple of big strikeouts. Meanwhile, Florida’s do-it-all star Jac Caglianone had about the worst start possible on the mound. Four straight walks gave Tennessee their first run, then a wild pitch gave them their second. Blake Burke crossed the plate on a fielder’s choice to make it a 3-0 game.
Caglianone bounced back with a strikeout, but walked Kavares Tears and Cal Stark after. With the bases once again loaded, Caglianone’s day on the mound came to a close. He stayed in the game as the designated hitter.
Florida turned to Tyler Nesbitt to get out of the jam, and he did just that. Honestly, a 3-0 lead felt like a little bit of a let down for how bad things went for Caglianone, but the Vols certainly were happy to be on top early after the last couple of nights.
A Griffin Merritt double ended up turning into a run on a Florida error, making it a 4-0 game in the bottom of the third. Cal Stark absolutely obliterated a two-run homerun on the next pitch.
Tennessee took a 6-0 lead into the fourth inning.
Merritt continued doing damage in the bottom of the fourth, crushing a two-run shot to left. Tennessee has badly needed Merritt’s bat to wake up, and it definitely made some noise this afternoon. That’s a great sign for this offense moving forward.
Drew Beam took an 8-0 lead into the fifth inning, and he was on cruise control.
Tennessee was looking to run rule the Gators, and Dylan Dreiling found himself at the plate with the bases loaded. Dreiling walked, and another run came across the plate. Jared Dickey was up next, but flew out to center, keeping us a 9-0 entering the seventh.
Luke Heyman finally got the Gators on the board, taking a hanging breaking ball over the left field fence for two runs. Beam bounced back to record his tenth strikeout of the day to get out of the inning.
Tennessee proceeded load the bases in the bottom of the seventh, then Zane Denton singled one home to make it 10-2. Christian Scott walked, making it 11-2. That was the 17th walk for Florida on the day. The Volunteers — oh so close to ending this one early — grounded out and struck out to take us to the eighth.
Beam’s night ended after seven innings. He tossed 99 pitches — 69 strikes — giving up two earned and striking out ten. Kirby Connell took over on the mound.
Griffin Merritt, fittingly, ended things with a three run shot.
Tennessee won game three, 14-2.
Just like last week, Tennessee finishes up a series loss looking like the team that they have the full ability to be. The Vols got a dominant performance from Drew Beam on the mound, while the bat of Griffin Merritt finally came to life. Just like that, Tennessee looked like one of the best teams in the country again.
Tony Vitello will continue to look for consistency from his lineup with another big one on tap for next weekend. Tennessee will head to Arkansas for a Friday-Sunday series. The Volunteers do have a mid-week game set for Tuesday against Eastern Kentucky.