KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– It was a shaky start to the week for No. 1 Tennessee.
However, after snapping a 23-game win streak to Tennessee Tech on Tuesday and dropping the opening game against No. 24 Alabama on Friday, the Vols were able to bounce back and even the series on Saturday before taking the series against the Tide in a 15-3 win on Easter Sunday.
Despite the fireworks from Saturday night’s game that featured three coach-ejections between the Vols and the Tide, Sunday was business as usual for Tennessee freshman pitcher Drew Beam, who tossed six and two-thirds innings and had a career high 10 strikeouts after setting the same mark at seven against Missouri the previous week.
The only blemishes to Beam’s day were the three solo home runs given up, which were three of the four hits he allowed. Beam picked up his SEC and nation-leading eighth win of the season.
The Tennessee bullpen put together a nice outing, using a combination of four pitchers to keep Alabama at bay. The pen only gave up two hits, one run and allowed two walks while picking up four strikeouts in relief of Beam.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Vols showed out at the plate in two-out situations going 7-13 and scoring 10 of their 15 runs with two outs.
Tennessee was led by junior second baseman Jorel Ortega, who went 4-5 including a three-run home run and four RBIs. Ortega was on fire in the series against the Tide, going 8-12 with a triple, two home runs, five RBIs, five runs scored and 19 total bases.
Junior third baseman Trey Lipscomb also showed out in Sunday’s win, going 3-5 with two home runs– a solo shot in the fifth and a three-run homer in the sixth– and a RBI double in the eighth. Lipscomb extended his SEC lead to 15 home runs this season and his RBI total to 57.
Jordan Beck hit his third home run of the weekend on Sunday with a two-run shot to left. The home run was his 10th of the year, giving Tennessee three players with double-digit home runs on the season (Lipscomb (15), Lipcius (10)).
Sunday was the sixth time Tennessee and Alabama have met on Easter Sunday, and with the win, the Vols improved to 4-2 with four straight wins over the Tide. Sunday also marked Tennessee’s 15th win on Easter Sunday in program history.
The Vols looked to be spiraling downwards after losing two straight games to start the week. However, the first inning fiasco between Tennessee’s head coach Tony Vitello and umpire crew chief Jeffery Macias provided a spark and seemed to return the top-ranked Vols to form.
Saturday’s ejection did cost Vitello some time after the NCAA gave him a four-game suspension after he made contact with Macias following his ejection. Since there are no appeals, Vitello is set to return to the Tennessee dugout for the series finale with Florida.
Tennessee pitching coach Frank Anderson, who was ejected in Saturday’s game and suspended for Sunday’s game, is expected to be back in the dugout for the Vols for the midweek game.
The Vols also looked to have lost starting right-handed pitcher Chase Dollander for some time after he was hit on the elbow by a comeback line-drive in Saturday’s game. The sophomore reportedly underwent an MRI on Sunday to determine the damage, and while no official word has been announced, rumor has it that the injury is “not nearly as bad” as it could have been.
Whether or not Dollander has to miss sometime, Tennessee should be in good hands with Blade Tidwell looking ready and back to full strength.
After losing on Friday, the Vols outscored Alabama 24-6 in the final two games, hitting seven of their eight weekend home runs to push their total to 87 homers on the season. Through the first 36 games, Tennessee is averaging 2.42 home runs per game.
Tennessee improves to 33-3 (14-1 SEC) and picked up it’s eighth straight weekend series win, fifth SEC series win. The Vols will be back in action when they play Bellarmine on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. E.T.