Late offense lifts the Rebels over the Vols for Tennessee’s first home loss of the season

Photo Credit: Emma Ramsey/Tennessee Athletics

By Jace Brown

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In contrast to Friday’s game, Lindsey Nelson Stadium was met with sunshine on Saturday during a thrilling 8-5 road victory for Ole Miss over Tennessee.

Tennessee (20-4, 2-3) put up 15 runs in a seven-inning affair on Friday but could not find consistent efforts from the bats, mostly in part to the pitching staff of Ole Miss (17-7, 3-2), which combined for 15 strikeouts.

Ole Miss lefty Liam Doyle looked unstoppable for the better part of his six-plus innings. Doyle tallied 10 strikeouts and walked just one batter while giving up three hits and four runs, three earned.

“He’s ultra-competitive,” Vols head coach Tony Vitello said. “Whatever role (Ole Miss) had him in, he seems to be maximizing it, increasing what they’re asking him to do or what his role is defined as.”

Tennessee’s starting pitcher Drew Beam came into this season as the known weekend starter for the Vols, and he once again showed why. The sturdy junior put Tennessee in a great position to win early, putting together 5.1 innings and letting up six hits, four runs, and striking out five.

The big issue for Beam in his career has been giving up home runs. This year has been different, entering only giving up one. His season total of home runs allowed quadrupled to four thanks to two towering home runs from Ole Miss third baseman Andrew Fischer and a big fly by second baseman Brayden Randle. Randle entered the weekend with no home runs but has homered in back-to-back contests.

Beam’s struggles late in his outing were followed by a similar fate for right hander AJ Russell. Russell had struggles of his own in his three innings of work, where he gave up four runs on two hits with six walks accounted for.

Tennessee’s offense kept it alive and in a position to win, taking a 5-4 lead to the final frame. First baseman Blake Burke smacked a go-ahead single in the bottom of the eighth inning that looked to put the game away and extended his hitting streak to 14 games.

Ole Miss answered the call in the ninth, plating four runs in the frame. First baseman Jackson Ross tied the game with a double off. Rebels’ outfielder Ethan Groff gave his squad the lead with a 2-run single before fellow outfielder Treyson Hughes pushed across the last run via a groundout.

Tennessee outfielder Hunter Ensley made himself known early with a two-run home run, his third long ball of the season, in the second to take a 2-1 lead. He finished the night 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a double to boot.

The Vols will be without its pitching coach Frank Anderson, who was ejected in the sixth inning during a mound visit. Coach Vitello or a fellow assistant will be having to pull extra weight Sunday to avoid losing the first two SEC series of the season.

“I didn’t think we did a terrible job last week; we competed our butts off,” said Ensley on another tied SEC series. “It sucks, but we have an opportunity to come back and get game three tomorrow. We can make a good weekend out of it for sure.”

The rubber match of the series is set for Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET and will be streaming live on SEC Network+.