WEEKEND REVIEW: Tennessee stays hot, sweeps Bowling Green

Photo by Emma Ramsey/Tennessee Athletics

By Jace Brown

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee hosted Bowling Green for the third and final time of the
weekend and finished with three run rule victories after Sunday’s 16-6 win.

A gorgeous afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium for the 1:00 p.m. first pitch set the
scene for Tennessee freshman Derek Schaefer to make his first weekend start as a Vol.
Schaefer had made quick work in the first, retiring all three batters, but struggled in the
second. He retired just one batter in the second frame, walked two, and gave up a hit
and two earned runs before Andrew Behnke closed out the inning.

Tennessee (11-1) used eight pitchers across the seven inning game, including three
true freshmen. Schaefer, Matthew Dallas, and Dylan Loy all saw action, but only
combined for 2.1 innings. Dallas and Loy both struggled out the gate, both walking the
first two batters they faced. Loy was able to work around the walks and finish the inning
unscathed, but Dallas took a quick trot to the bench after the two batters.

Dallas was saved by graduate lefty Kirby Connell, who came in and shut the door on the
Bowling Green (2-7) threat. In his inning of work, Connell faced the minimum three
batters and struck out two of them. Connell was scored the winning pitcher of the
contest for his third inning contribution.

Sophomore Tennessee pitcher Marcus Phillips saw two innings of action, and besides
two wild pitches, was spot-on for the Vols. Allowing just one hit, Phillips struck out
three, the team high, and walked none.

“He’s really showing a bigger and better presence,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello
said. “Repetitions are the key… just keep piling up the repetitions for that kid.”

In the top of the seventh, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello brought in senior Zander
Sechrist to close out the victory, clinging to a 14-2 lead. Sechrist, last season’s
midweek staple and so far the Sunday starter besides this outing, struggled. In his
three batters, he gave up two hits, including a solo home run to Bowling Green’s Gavin
Ganun before getting pulled for Austin Hunley.

Hunley also struggled in his time, walking a batter and giving up two hits and two runs
before finally getting the third out. By the midway point of the seventh, the run rule was
no longer in play with a score of 14-6.

Luckily for Tennessee, its offense had been solid throughout the afternoon and still had
some gas in the tank.

Tennessee came out scorching hot, scoring nine runs across the first two innings.
Cannon Peebles was perfect on the day, going 3-for-3 at the plate with a double and
two runs batted in. Dylan Dreiling also had a big day, going 2-for-4 with a double and a
three run blast in the second inning, tallying four runs batted in in total.

“I think I was up there early in the season trying to do too much, trying to show that I can
produce,” Peebles said on his recent upswing in success at the plate. “Taking a step
back to just chill out at the plate, just let it happen and not try to make it happen has
been the key for me.”

Ten different Vols knocked in at least one run, but none were more satisfying than the
last hit of the game off the bat of outfielder Colby Backus. The Johnson City, Tenn.,
native poked a double down the left field line to score the game-ending run, bringing the
final score of 16-6.


Blake Burke is BACK:
The bat of Blake Burke has awoken from its slumber. Burke hit just fine before the
weekend, but the powerhouse hitter found his groove Friday, hitting his second opposite
field home run of the season, also being his second homer overall. Saturday proved to
continue his onslaught, smacking two home runs over the right field scoreboard to bring
his season total to four. Sunday’s effort saw him go 1-for-4 at the plate, but that came
with a double and an RBI.

If Burke can keep up the hot hand come SEC play, which starts in under two weeks,
Tennessee’s foes will have to look down the barrel of the gauntlet that is the Tennessee
lineup at full strength.

Who’ll be the staples in the outfield?
The outfield has been a revolving door this season, hosting numerous Tennessee
players throughout the young season.

“We don’t have that,” Coach Vitello said on the possibility of a standard depth chart for
the outfield. “I’d rather have it that way. That means you’ve been recruiting the right
guys, that means (Quentin Eberhardt) has been getting guys where they need to be in
the weight room… there’s six or seven guys out there that are doing very, very well for

With all the star power loaded in the core of the outfield, competition has been high, that
can be seen by the amount of Vols have taken the field this year. Coach Vitello is a fan
of the depth, knowing he can turn to three of about seven or eight players to
consistently play at a high level any given game. It’s a great problem to have,
especially in a league like the SEC, which currently has nine members in the Top 25

If I were to give my take on the outfield/designated hitter position, it would be as follows:
Dylan Dreiling in left, Kavares Tears in center, and interchangeable between Robin
Villeneuve and Dalton Bargo for right field and the DH spot. I think that look provides
ample coverage on defense and the best hitters possible for the long run. Coach Vitello
still has plenty of time to find his mainstays, but the clock is still ticking.

The Vols look to add on to their 10-game win streak with a matchup against Kansas
State on Tuesday, March 5th , at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for
6:00 p.m. ET.