By Griffin Hadley
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 3 Tennessee completed the series sweep over Gonzaga in a 17-9 victory on Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Vols (11-2) were victorious in a game that did not fall short in total offense as seven total home runs were hit and 26 total runs were scored.
It was an off day for Tennessee’s pitching staff, allowing eleven hits and nine runs. The Vols’ Sunday ace, sophomore RHP Drew Beam, ran into some early trouble allowing his first runs of the season. Beam struggled to find his rhythm through
four innings of action. Gonzaga (1-10) hit much better than their record shows and took an early 2-0 lead over the Vols after the top half of the third.
“It was good for him to experience it,” said Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello, speaking on Drew Beam facing early adversity. “If you’re going to be a winning team you must find ways to win different games. We won a sloppy game today and Drew was right
in the middle of it.”
It was the second game in a row in which the Vols trailed by two runs early. However, after stranding four baserunners in the first two innings, the Tennessee offense started to click. The Vols mustered up eight runs in the bottom of the third thanks to a grand slam from redshirt sophomore Jared Dickey.
Dickey, typically the leadoff hitter for the Vols, was moved into the five hole for Sunday’s contest. This move paid dividends for Tennessee as Dickey went for a walk, two runs scored, and four total RBIs thanks to his third inning bomb to right-center field.
“I was just trying to work the count deep,” Dickey said about his third inning grand slam. “Whenever I got to 3-2, I saw the percentages, it was 100% heater, so I was sitting it and luckily got my hands on top of it.”
In addition to the Dickey long ball, Maui Ahuna was able to connect for a double bringing in two more runs for the Vols. Ahuna, who was moved into the lead-off role for the first time, bolstered four total RBIs on the day, quadrupling his season total.
“I think I’ve done well,” said Ahuna, speaking on his performance through five games. “There are some places where I need to adjust but it’s still early for me in the season, I think I will be just fine, just be a great teammate, follow all the boys to
the overall goal, and when we win, I’m happy.”
After allowing a third run in the fourth, Vitello elected to keep Drew Beam on the mound to start the fifth inning. Ahuna was unable to track down a high-flying pop fly which turned into a lead-off double for the Zags. This marked the end of Drew Beam’s day after allowing seven hits and four runs through four innings pitched. Vitello then turned to Bryce Jenkins, who received a rude awakening when he entered the game.
Jenkins was met by Brian Kalmer, Gonzaga’s third basemen who went for three home runs in the game. Kalmer’s first was a two-run shot off Jenkins to shrink the Tennessee lead to five. The Tennessee bullpen had a rocky day allowing nine total runs, much more than they’re accustomed to doing. The Vols used a slew of arms out of the bullpen to close out the game after pulling Beam.
Andrew Lindsey took over for Bryce Jenkins, starting off strong in the fifth inning. However, a solo shot from Kalmer put another
run on the board for the Zags and put a dent in Lindsey’s perfect ERA. The left-handed duo of Jake Fitzgibbons and Jacob Bimbi closed out the game allowing two hits and three runs during the last two innings of the game.
Despite the pitching struggles the Vols offense was able to shine throughout the afternoon. The Tennessee lead was only four to start the bottom of the eighth inning as the Vols tried to put the game away. The Zags bullpen started to thin as the Gonzaga pitching staff put up a combined 13 walks throughout the game. As a result of smart baseball and patience at the plate the Vols were able to put the game away adding five runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Gonzaga threw eight different pitchers throughout the game with only five combined strikeouts to their name. The Gonzaga staff had a promising start as starter Nate Deschryver allowed only three runs, however, finding the strike zone was the biggest issue for the Zags. The bulldogs found strength in their lineup but failed to find the pitching to back up the offensive production.
After a back-and-forth affair, the Vols offense proved to be too dominant in an eight run, 17-9 victory over the Gonzaga Bulldogs, completing the series sweep. Dickey and Ahuna led the offense with four RBIs each. The offense was highlighted by a balanced attack where each member of the starting lineup went for a hit excluding only Blake Burke and Cal Stark. Christian Scott and Hunter Ensley both contributed from the bench providing base hits as pinch hitters.
Tennessee will return to action on Tuesday when the Vols hosted Boston College at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The first pitch is set for 6:30 P.M. EST and can be viewed on the SEC Network+.