By Gabriel Daniel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- No.18 Tennessee cruised to its eighth straight win with a 13-3 run-rule victory over Wofford Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Tennessee’s (31-14, 11-10 SEC) pitching limited a dangerous Wofford offense. The Terriers (32-12, 8-4 SoCon) entered the game top ten in the nation in batting average (.327), scoring (9.3), and stolen base (123). The Vols pitchers totaled 11 strikeouts and only allowed four hits.
Freshman right-handed pitcher AJ Russell saw plenty of success against the Terriers. Russell came in for starter Zander Sechrist midway through the third and immediately went to work. The Vols were in a tough spot after a fielding error, intentional walk, and a catcher interference call loaded the bases for the Terriers. Russell got a clutch strikeout for the third out of the inning and kept Wofford off the board.
Russell continued his impressive pitching in his next two innings, striking out five batters and not allowing a hit. Russell picked up his second win of the season with his performance. Head Coach Tony Vitello said he has been impressed with Russell’s growth over the season.
“He [Russell] was throwing the ball really well … now that he’s been out there in heated situations not just ‘hey you get to start your own inning and get us three outs’ I trust him in any situation, I trust him to close a game,” Vitello said.
A freshman out of Franklin, Tenn., Russell has been successful in the limited opportunities he’s had on the mound for Tennessee. In his 15 appearances this year he has allowed just four hits and three runs.
The only trouble for the Tennessee pitchers came in the sixth inning. The Terrier’s offense got three of their four hits in the inning and scored their only three runs. The pitching stabilized when sophomore Aaron Combs came in and got the final two outs of the inning.
Tennessee continued its hot hitting that has been a major factor in its win streak. The Vols totaled 12 hits and scored 13 runs, the fifth time in the last seven games they have scored double digit runs. It seemed as though everyone was having success for the Vols with five different batters bringing in two or more runners for scores.
“If you isolate one at bat here or there or even a couple in a row at beginning it would be frustrating. But if you look at the whole picture those guys were really relaxed and yet dialed in tonight and they did a good job against some really good arms,” Vitello said.
Jared Dickey continued the offensive success he has had this year. In the bottom of third, Dickey broke open a scoreless game with a triple down the left field line that brought in two runs for the Vols. Dickey would go on to tie his career high with three hits in his four at bats and bring in another run in the bottom of the sixth.
The offensive production for Tennessee came against a Wofford pitching staff that has been successful throughout the year. The Terriers are particularly good at commanding the strike zone, allowing the least number of walks per nine innings in college baseball. They also have the third best strikeout to walk ratio, behind only Wake Forrest and Tennessee.
Up next the Vols head to Athens for a series against the Georgia Bulldogs. Game one is Friday with first pitch set for 6 P.M. ET.