Tennessee didn’t get much of a break with this week’s midweek game, as the previously 32-11 (8-4) Wofford Terriers came to LNS Tuesday evening.
And through the first two innings, the offense managed more strikeouts (four) than hits and walks combined (two), and it looked like we might be in for a pitcher’s duel. That didn’t last, as Tennessee’s offense put up 10 runs in the fifth and sixth innings and beat the Wofford Terriers 13-3 in a run-rule shortened affair.
UT used its typical midweek starter, Zander Sechrist, and he stayed out a bit longer than usual — ending his day with just one out remaining in the top of the third. Sechrist picked up two quick outs to start the third — the second one was his third strikeout of the game — and then Vitello brought in freshman AJ Russell.
This was the only time early that Wofford really threatened to make some noise in an inning, as Christian Moore made an error at second on the first pitch Russell threw. The Wofford baserunner subsequently stole second, Tennessee passed out an intentional walk to two-hole hitter Ryan Galanie (since he’s hitting .430-plus on the season) and then Vols’ catcher Charlie Taylor got called for catcher’s interference.
In nine pitches, the bases were loaded for Tennessee’s freshman righty. Russell responded with a breaking-ball strikeout to tamp down the embers of a Wofford crooked inning.
Wofford’s starter, Charlie Weber, typically pitches the second game in weekend series, so he only pitched the first two frames. His final line: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 Ks. But once Weber left the game, the offense got going.
After a Charlie Taylor strikeout, Maui Ahuna singled, Hunter Ensley got hit by a pitch and Jared Dickey roped a triple down the line in left to clear the bases and score the game’s first runs.
Dickey scored quickly after, as the Wofford catcher tried to pick him off at third and instead threw the ball into leftfield.
Blake Burke and Christian Moore both were sat down to keep Tennessee’s inning at three runs on two hits and an error from the Terriers.
AJ Russell struck out the side in the top of the fourth on just 10 pitches, but the offense wasted a Dylan Dreiling lead-off single in the bottom half of the frame and put up a zero.
Russell stayed out for the top of the fifth and induced a pop-up out to shortstop, struck out Wofford’s last hitter in the lineup and then made quite the play on a comebacker for the inning’s third out:
Taylor led the fifth inning off, but unlike the third inning, he doubled to left to give the Vols a man in scoring position with no outs. Ahuna drew a full-count walk, but then Ensley struck out looking and Dickey grounded out. Ensley’s strikeout was useless, but Dickey’s out was at least productive, as it moved Taylor and Ahuna to third and second, respectively.
I feel like a broken record at this point, but Tennessee’s two-out hitting has come so far from where it was at the start of the season, and we got more two-out production in the B5 against the Terriers.
Blake Burke singled both runners home on a base hit to right, and then Christian Moore brought Burke home with him on 400-foot home run that left the park at 106 MPH:
Moore got a pitch on the outer half of the plate and just launched it over the opposite-field wall. Great piece of hitting from Moore here, taking what the pitcher gave him and then the sheer power to send it that far, that fast is pretty silly.
After Moore’s HR, the bats looked like they were going to continue to add to their two-out run total, as Dreiling took a full-count pitch for a walk and Denton singled to left. But Christian Scott struck out to end the inning and the two-out rally. Tennessee finished the fifth with four runs on four hits and the two runners stranded at the end of the frame.
Russell had been cruising, but a leadoff walk in the B6 came with Vitello’s hook. Russell’s final line: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks.
Vitello brought Jacob Bimbi in from the bullpen, with the runner on first charged to Russell. Bimbi gave up back-to-back singles, the second of which scored the runner who drew the leadoff walk. Still with no outs, Bimbi was facing runners on first and second until Wofford worked a double steal to get both baserunners into scoring position.
Bimbi struck out the next batter for the first out of the frame but then gave up a bunt single that brought home the runner at third. At this point, Vitello had seen enough and made the call to the bullpen for Aaron Combs. Combs gave up a sac fly, with the run charged to Bimbi , and then picked off the runner at first to end the T6. The Terriers managed three runs on three hits and made it a 7-3 game favoring the Vols.
But the Vols blew the game open in the bottom half of the sixth with six runs on four hits. Again, Charlie Taylor led the inning off with a hit, and then Ahuna drew his second walk of the game. Both runners advanced on a subsequent wild pitch, and Hunter Ensley cleared the bases with a two-run single to right.
Ensley made it to second on a wild pitch, and Dickey took a full-count pitch out to center to score Ensley. Christian Moore battled his way to a full-count walk, which led to freshman Dylan Dreiling’s three-run shot to the flag poles in right-centerfield.
The six-run sixth officially put the run-rule into effect, with the Vols up 13-3 going into the top of the seventh. Now Wofford was down to its final three outs to try and score a run and extend the game back out to its normal nine innings.
But Kirby Connell struck out the first batter, freshman Andrew Behnke struck out the second batter and Jake Fitzgibbons got the final out on a dribbler to the pitcher’s mound.
- Charlie Taylor went 2-3 with a double and raised his season average to nearly .220
- Two Vols went deep tonight: Christian Moore hit his 10th home run of the season and his fourth dinger in his last three games, and freshman Dylan Dreiling went 2-2 with three RBIs on his sixth home run of the year, which drove his batting average for the season up to .333
- Tennessee used seven pitchers through seven innings, with freshman AJ Russell getting his second win of the year. He struck out five of the 11 batters he faced and dropped his season ERA to .93 in 17 innings of work. In total, he’s got 25 Ks to just three walks
- The meat of the Vols’ lineup did what you’d expect: Ensley went 1-3 with two RBIs in the two spot, Jared Dickey went 3-4 with three RBIs in the three spot, Blake Burke went just 1-4 but had two RBIs in the cleanup spot, then Moore and Dreiling combined to go 3-5 with two HRs, five RBIs, 2 BB and three runs scored
Tennessee heads to Athens for this weekend’s series with UGA. It’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday weekend with the rotation likely sticking to Andrew Lindsey in game one, Chase Dollander in game two and Drew Beam in game three.
First pitch Friday night is scheduled for 6:30 PM.