By Tucker Harlin
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 24 Tennessee flipped the script of last week’s midweek game against Tennessee Tech by bludgeoning its way through Bellarmine with a 19-1 win on a cool Tuesday night in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Vols’ offensive explosion was led by its talented group of freshmen, who combined for four home runs and 11 RBIs in the win.
One of the most impressive feats of the night was the strength of Tennessee’s (27-14) pitching staff. Bellarmine (11-30) did not record a hit or a walk in the first six innings. The Vols allowed just three hits and one earned run while striking out 12 batters.
“Frank (Anderson) is always happy when we go out there and compete very well,” said Tennessee starting pitcher Zander Sechrist. “Especially with no walks. Even if there’s a run on the board, that just means you’re throwing strikes.”
Offensively, it was an onslaught as Tennessee scored in seven of its eight appearances at the plate.
The first signs of offense from the Volunteers came with two outs in the first inning. Four straight balls to Jared Dickey followed by a Blake Burke single to right field and a Griffin Merritt single up the middle gave Tennessee a 1-0 advantage.
The second inning began with some fireworks as freshman outfielder Dylan Dreiling blasted a solo homer over the wall in right field to give the Vols a two-run advantage. Tennessee was able to do a little more damage as a Maui Ahuna double to right center field put the Vols ahead 3-0.
Tennessee’s bats stayed hot into the third inning. What looked like a lineout for Dreiling turned into an RBI triple to center field, his second extra-base of the game. The Vols added another run as another freshman, this time Jake Kendro, rolled a sacrifice bunt up the first baseline, taking their lead up to five.
Jared Dickey started the fourth inning with more excitement as he sent one over the wall in right field to make it a 6-0 affair. A few batters later, Dreiling sent a sacrifice fly to center field that brought home Blake Burke for his third RBI of the night to put the Vols ahead by seven.
Though a three-run blast from Christian Scott highlighted the fifth inning, it also saw the emergence of freshman Reese Chapman as he pinch-hit an RBI single.
“He’s actually my roommate,” said Dreiling on Chapman. “It’s pretty cool that we get to go back and talk about it all the time.”
Chapman was still hungry in the sixth inning as he ripped a solo bomb to right field. A few batters later, freshman Ryan Miller crushed a three-run shot over the scoreboard to make it 15-0 Tennessee.
Miller put on an encore performance the following inning as he nailed the scoreboard with another three-run shot. Miller’s homer and an RBI single from Christian Scott put the Vols up 19 after seven. While Scott drove in four runs from the plate, it was the freshman Miller who led the team going 2-for-2 with six RBIs on his pair of three-run homers.
“All he’s done is make the most of every opportunity he gets and he gets better every day between games,” said Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello on Ryan Miller. “He’s pretty versatile, the kid works hard at being more than just a catcher.”
With the midweek contest behind them, Tennessee now turns its attention to conference play as it will play host to Mississippi State (24-17) in a three-game series beginning Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.