Tennessee likely knew it didn’t have much margin for error coming in to this game if it hoped to advance.
But in several key moments, the Vols made costly mistakes, while LSU threw bullpen arm Nate Ackenhausen who finished with a 6 IP, 7 K win in his first start of the season as LSU blanked UT 5-0 and eliminated the Vols from the College World Series.
Tennessee starter Drew Beam gave up a run in the top of the first after LSU’s Dylan Crews kicked the game off with a walk. He made it into scoring position on a passed ball — just a pitch or two after he slipped trying to steal second, and Cal Stark’s throw to first wasn’t placed well enough to get Crews out.
Tre’ Morgan singled and advanced Crews to third, then Cade Beloso brought Crews home with a two-out single.
But then Beam settled in and gave up just two hits in innings two-through-five. His final line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 Ks.
some of the Drew Beam nastiness from this evening pic.twitter.com/w2wSy7kkMH— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) June 21, 2023
Unfortunately, Ackenhausen, who had 15 appearances on the season without a start, induced a disappearing act from the Tennessee hitters. He really only ran into a little bit of trouble twice through his 6 IP.
In the bottom of the second, Griffin Merritt smoked the first pitch he saw into center for a single, but Christian Moore followed by hitting into an inning-killer of a double play. Blake Burke tried to start a two-out rally with a base knock to right, but Zane Denton struck out to end the inning.
Then in the fifth, Ackenhausen struck out Denton to start the bottom half of the frame and induced a flyball out from Christian Scott after that. But Cal Start got hit by a pitch — one of three HBP for Ackenhausen on the night — and Ahuna became the only Vol with more than one hit when he doubled to left-center on Ackenhausen’s first offering. Stark was held at third, which looked like a questionable decision at the time and only started to look worse as the Vols continued to not produce at the plate as the game wore on.
Beam gave up a lead-off double to Tre’ Morgan to start the sixth, and then Gavin Dugas laid down a bunt that looked like it might have been rolling foul, but Denton played it and threw it past Blake Burke at first and into right field, which allowed Morgan to score easily from third.
Beam issued a four-pitch walk, then got two outs on two pitches, but Vitello elected to bring in freshman AJ Russell to finish off the top of the sixth. Russell got that out, and then got all three outs in the seventh on eight pitches.
LSU went to reliever Riley Cooper in the seventh, and the Vols attempted a rally in the B7 once was Ackenhausen gone.
Blake Burke started things off by getting hit by a pitch. Denton reached on a fielder’s choice, and the Tigers got the lead runner at second but then Christian Scott struck out for his second time of the game.
Dylan Dreiling worked a walk, Ahuna reached on an error, and all the sudden the Vols had the bases loaded with Denton sitting 90 feet from home. But Hunter Ensley grounded out harmlessly to first to end UT’s chances of, at the very least, scoring a run.
Vitello pulled Russell in favor of Aaron Combs in the eighth, and Combs proceeded to hit the first two batters he faced. Tony turned to Seth Halvorsen, who got one out and was subbed out for Camden Sewell, as Vitello was looking for a double-play ball from a ground-ball pitcher. As it were, he got just that from Jordan Thompson, but Ahuna fielded it and flipped it to Christian Moore, who bobbled the ball on the transfer and spoiled the easy double play.
Sewell hit the next batter — the third hit batter of the half inning for Tennessee — and then a wild pitch/ passed ball scored the Tigers’ third run of the game. Absolute disaster of an inning to only have given up one run.
On the flipside, Jared Dickey led the B8 with a lead-off single, but then when Griffin Merritt hit the ball to the shortstop, LSU turned its double play with ease and again killed the Vols’ momentum.
Dylan Crews took Sewell deep for the game’s only home run in the top of the ninth for a two-run insurance home run, but the Tigers didn’t need the extra two-spot. This one had been wrapped up for a while.
Fittingly, the Vols went down in order in the bottom of the ninth as Denton flew out to center, Scott struck out for the team-leading third time of the game and Kavares Tears flew out to left-center.
Four Vols went hitless, Tennessee stranded nine base runners and went 1-11 with runners on. It was a particularly difficult day for Hunter Ensley, who followed Maui Ahuna’s two-hit game with an 0-3 performance and five runners left on base. UT’s inability to hit lefties has been a season-long issue, and tonight, LSU sent the Vols home utilizing two left-handed pitchers in the six-hit shutout.