By Gabriel Daniel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 10 Tennessee closed out its five-game home stretch undefeated with a 5-0 win over UNC Asheville Tuesday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Tennessee (20-6, 3-3 SEC) continued the strong pitching it has showed throughout the season, giving up just one hit and only walking three hitters while not allowing any runs.
Junior pitcher Zander Sechrist got the start on the mound for the Vols and got two strikeouts in his only full inning of play. Head coach Tony Vitello got contributions throughout the pitching staff, with Jacob Bimbi, Bryce Jenkins, and Aaron Combs each tying for a team high three strike outs.
Vitello was impressed in particular with the performance of Combs. A redshirt sophomore out of Sarasota Florida, Combs is 3-0 on the season and has 1.80 ERA.
“He was probably the guy that was the most dynamic, out of a bunch of guys that we used that did well one hit a team that had inflated offensive numbers,” said Vitello.
UNC Asheville (15-9, 2-4 Big South) also had a strong start to the game pitching. The Bulldogs held the Vols to one hit and no runs through the first four innings. Sluggish offensive starts have been something the Vols have struggled with throughout the season, especially in the series sweep by Missouri.
However, the offense came alive in the fifth inning thanks to a home run hit by senior outfielder Christian Scott who blasted the ball over the right field wall.
“It felt good, just giving the team a spark. Making that play then coming and hitting a home run, it felt good,” said Scott.
The home run was Scott’s third of the season, hitting his other two in games against Morehead State and Western Carolina. Scott also has a .212 batting average and a .485 slugging percentage in scattered appearances throughout the season.
The Vols followed up the one score fifth inning with a dominant offensive performance in the sixth. Tennessee scored three runs and hit another home run, this one courtesy of sophomore Blake Burke. It was Burke’s tenth home run of the season, a team high. Tennessee closed out its hot stretch of offense in seventh inning, getting two more hits and earning one more run.
“Confidence is a big thing when it comes to hitting, and I can’t speak for them whether they were confident or not, I am just saying when each guy is doing his job, kind of like their pitchers were doing to start the day it has a multitude of things that it effects,” said Vitello.
When it was all said and done the Vols were able to move past the sluggish start and put together a respectable day of offense. The Vols finished with six hits and two home runs out of a total of 29 at bats.
Up next Tennessee will travel to Baton Rouge on Thursday to start their series against No. 1 LSU. First pitch is schedule for 8:00 P.M. EST and will be the start of a series of weekend matchups with some of the top teams in the country. Friday’s matchup will feature a battle between two top prospects as the Vols will send out junior RHP Chase Dollander (4-2, 3.92 ERA) to face the Tigers’ junior RHP/utility man Paul Skenes (5-0, 0.59 ERA).