Tennessee weathers the storm en route to a 15-3 victory

Photo Credit: Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics

By Jace Brown

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The soggy conditions of Lindsey Nelson Stadium seemed to have no effect on the offensive prowess of Tennessee, as it takes the series opener against Ole Miss 15-3 behind five home runs.

After having its first game without a home run last Sunday, Tennessee came out with a vengeance, looking to get a streak building back up.

The Vols (20-3, 2-2) had a silent first inning, but would be scoreless just one other occasion, that being the fifth inning. Four different Vols hit long balls on the night, including Dean Curley, Robin Villeneuve, Kavares Tears, and Christian Moore. Moore went deep to left twice, the fourth time in his career that he has homered more than once in a game.

Tears’ home run, his seventh on the season, was a close call. With a 15.9-degree launch angle, the ball never seemed to surpass a climax of maybe 30-35 feet. The ball was hit 112 mph, and with no wind, it felt destined to leave the yard.

“Not at all,” said Tears when asked if he thought the ball was getting out. “I had to turn and look at the first base umpire, and I saw him just doing this (remaking the home run signal) and I was like ‘Oh, I guess so.’”

Tennessee pitcher AJ Causey has slipped into the Friday starting slot thanks to an unfortunate injury in the early season to RHP AJ Russell. Causey has made it known he will not back down from a challenge, now boasting a 5-0 record on the bump. Causey put together 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs while striking out six.

“Relatively typical,” Vols head coach Tony Vitello said on Causey’s outing. “Good preparation going into the week… and then went out there and competed. The one thing he does is he has good presence, keeps things together when it doesn’t go your way.”

The bashers in Big Orange strung together 13 hits, two being from sophomore outfielder Reese Chapman. The Johnson City, Tenn. native reached base in all four plate appearances via two walks and two singles, which combined for three runs batted in.

Tennessee grabbed its first SEC win since last Friday, when they took down Alabama on the road to open SEC play. The Vols lost the next two contests but played the Crimson Tide close and had opportunities to win late.

The Vols started an eight game homestand on Tuesday with a win over Xavier 10-2. Being at home for two straight weekends could be pivotal for Tennessee’s momentum in SEC play.

“Being back home is huge, getting a win like that is huge,” said Moore. “It helped us save a little pitching for tomorrow and Sunday. (The) offense did what we needed to do for our pitching staff.”

Ole Miss (16-7, 2-2) had some chances to make some noise, loading the bases twice in the sixth inning alone. The most offense the Rebels saw came from the bottom of the lineup, second baseman Brayden Randle. Randle took Causey deep to left for his first home run of the season.

Rebels’ starting pitcher Gunnar Dennis suffered his first loss of the season, now posting a 3-1 record after going 3.2 innings and giving up 10 runs on nine hits. He also gave up four of Tennessee’s five home runs.

Game two of the series is set for Saturday, March 23 at 6:00 p.m. ET, streaming on SEC Network+.