By Joseph Bonanno
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- After hitting seven home runs in a 19-run victory to open the series, No. 3 Tennessee once again powered its way past Morehead State, clinching the series with a 6-0 shutout win in the early portion of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Chase Burns’ Career Day
Tennessee (13-3) sophomore right-hander Chase Burns was nothing short of phenomenal in the early game on Saturday. Burns opened the game with five consecutive strikeouts before an Eagles player could put the ball in play. Morehead State (9-6) only managed to get three runners on off of Burns who went 6.2 innings allowing just three hits and no runs. The biggest stat on the day was Burns’ career-high 13 strikeouts, breaking a mark he tied back on Feb. 25 in a win over Dayton.
Burns’ season ERA now sits at 1.47, the lowest of the three starters, as the sophomore has only allowed five earned runs in 24 innings this season. He is also up to 39 strikeouts, which is one shy of junior right-hander Chase Dollander’s team lead.
Burke Back on Track
Tennessee’s sophomore first baseman Blake Burke got things started for the Vols, continuing the trend of Friday night’s bashing. Burke launched a two-out home run over the Lindsey Nelson Scoreboard, a 449-foot shot, to give Tennessee a first-inning lead. Prior to Saturday’s first game, Burke had some struggles after starting the season on a hot streak, going 1-12 at the plate in his previous three outings. However, a 3-4 day with two RBIs and a triple shy of the cycle put the Vols’ first baseman back on track.
Burke is now up to eight home runs on the year and kicks his batting average back up to .424, both team highs. He also leads the team with 24 RBIs and 25 hits.
Vols’ Bats Stay Hot
Tennessee hit three more home runs in Saturday’s early game. Burke’s first-inning shot got things started for the Vols and was followed by a solo home run from senior transfer outfielder Griffin Merritt in the second inning, his third of the season. Freshman Dylan Dreiling added another long ball in the sixth inning, his second of the series and of his career. The three Saturday home runs give Tennessee a total of 35 on the year and 10 so far in the series against the Eagles.
Outside of the home runs, Zane Denton, who hit for the cycle on Friday, had a sacrifice fly in the fifth and Jared Dickey had an RBI single in the seventh inning. The Vols scored a run in six of the eight innings they hit in.
Tennessee had 10 total hits in game two and had three players with a multi-hit game. Burke led the way with his game-high three hits, while Merritt and redshirt freshman Kavares Tears added two hits each. Tears made his first career start in Friday night’s win, where he went 3-4 and continued his hot streak into game two. Tears is now up to a .615 batting average in 13 at-bats in 2023.
Camden Sewell Debuts
After announcing he would be returning to Tennessee for his graduate senior season from an additional year of eligibility gained from 2020 COVID-shortened season, Tennessee right-hander Camden Sewell missed the first 15 games with some arm soreness. However, after teasing his return for a few games, Tony Vitello finally made the move to bring Sewell into a game.
Sewell’s debut didn’t disappoint as the senior came into the ninth inning in relief of junior right-hander Andrew Lindsey with one out, and struck out the only two batters he saw on just nine pitches. Sewell, a 2023 preseason All-American and 2023 preseason All-SEC player, went 7-1 with a 2.52 ERA in 2022 and started the Vols’ SEC Tournament Championship game against Florida. While the Vols’ are going to take Sewell’s return slow, Saturday’s debut was an encouraging sign for one of the better arms out of the Tennessee bullpen.
Tennessee and Morehead State will play game three of the series at 5:10 P.M. EST as the Vols’ go for the sweep to close out non-conference weekend play. It will be QB 1, a.k.a. sophomore right-hander Drew Beam (2-0, 1.76 ERA) on the mound for the Vols to face the Eagles’ graduate senior LHP John Bakke (1-0, 1.23 ERA).