Tennessee Takes Tensioned Filled Game Three, Sweeps Illinois

Photo by University of Tennessee Athletics (@Vol_Baseball on X)

By Gabriel Daniel

KNOXVILLE, Tenn- No.8 Tennessee completed the series sweep of Illinois Sunday with an 8-3 win at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. 

The Vols (16-1) relied on a big day from sophomore pitcher Nate Snead to cut through the Fighting Illini (5-9) batting order. 

Snead came in during the fourth inning and went the rest of the way for Tennessee. Snead struck out five batters and did not allow a run in his fourth win of the season. 

“You don’t know when there is going to be a swing moment in a game,” Vols head coach Tony Vitello said. “When those moments come up he’s the type of guy we would like to have available and read to pitch.” 

Snead came in after early struggles from starter Aaron Combs. Combs gave up three runs on four hits and two walks. 

The Vols offense struggled early, going scoreless in the first four innings. Tensions began to boil with both teams receiving warnings from the umpires. 

In the fifth inning, Hunter Ensley pinch hit for Reese Chapman and sparked the offense. Ensley hit a bomb to left field for his first home run of the season.

“Feels good, obviously. When you get results it always feels good. Really just been relying on the work in the cages in here out on the field pregame BP stuff like that,” Ensley said.

Ensley’s hit was followed by a Blake Burke homer later in the frame. 

Burke was ejected after rounding home plate presumably for something he said to the Illinois catcher. Burke will also miss the Vols’ next game against Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday. 

“I don’t necessarily agree with Blake’s approach or some of our other guys’ approach in certain situations, but I also don’t agree with how we got to that whole spot,” Vitello said. 

Dean Curley tied the game in the sixth for Tennessee with a sac-fly and the Vols took the lead in the seventh thanks to a Kavares Tears double. Then junior designated hitter Robin Villeneuve broke the game open with a grand slam to give Tennessee a five-run lead. 

“Coach was saying he was a big slider guy so I was trying to sit on the slider, and he hung one. First of all, I was just trying to put the ball in play,  at first I didn’t think it was gone,” Villeneuve said. 

Originally from Quebec, Villeneuve transferred from Weatherford College in Texas. He now has three home runs and 12 hits this season. 

Up next, the Vols are at home against Eastern Kentucky with first pitch at 6:00 p.m. ET. Following Tuesday’s contest, the Vols begin their SEC schedule Friday against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.