Tennessee takes game one, runs away from Evansville to start Super Regional play

During the seventh inning Hunter Ensley mashed a three-run homer into the porches, extending the Tennessee lead to six. Photo Credit: Tennessee Athletics

By Griffin Hadley, Sports Director

It took seven innings to pull away, but No. 1 Tennessee baseball (54-11) ran away from Evansville (38-25), winning game one of the Knoxville super regional 11-6. The Vols are now one win away from returning to another College World Series.

After a back-and-fourth offensive affair the Vols stretched the lead to three in the fifth and six in the seventh. Tennessee’s four home runs were responsible for majority of the scoring, pumping up the Lindsey Nelson crowd each time a ball left the yard. 

Tennessee starter Chris Stamos started off hot, striking out the side in the first. Coming off a lackluster outing during regional play, Stamos bounced back silencing the Purple Aces early on. 

The Vols offense wasted no time as Blake Burke sent a no-doubter into the scoreboard in the bottom of the first. The Burke long ball was hit 377 ft and was his 18th of the season.

“On a day like today [the wind] was really pushing out to left field, the ball was really flying,” center fielder Hunter Ensley said postgame. “CMo, Billy, and Burke all homered today, it bleeds into the rest of the team.” 

Stamos allowed the Evansville offense to come alive after giving up a double and a two-run shot to start the second and the Aces took a 2-1 lead, their only lead of the day. Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello did not take any risks, bringing in AJ Causey immediately after the Evansville homer. 

Causey started dealing immediately, striking out his first two hitters and getting out of the second unscathed. The side-slot reliever struck out eight in his four and two-thirds of work. 

Despite giving up the early solo shot, Evansville starting pitcher Kenton Deverman shoved early, giving the Tennessee lineup fits the first time through the order.  

In the top of the third Causey worked out of the jam after allowing two Aces to reach, retiring his next two and keeping the Aces lead at just one. The lefty got an assist from Cal Stark as he caught another runner at first with yet another back-pick move. 

In the bottom half of the frame Christian Moore stole the lead right back, launching a two-run homer over the right-center wall, adding two more to the Tennessee total. Moore turned an 88 mph pitch into a 112 mph rocket that was sent 406 feet.

Billy Amick joined in on the fun two at-bats later, sending one into the porches, 422 feet from the plate, extending the lead to 4-2. 

Tennessee small ball added another run in the fourth after a Hunter Ensley double, a Kavares Tears ground-out, and Dean Curley sacrifice fly. 

The Purple Aces stormed back in the fifth, taking advantage of a Moore error at second. Evansville inflicted damage, taking free bases and limiting mistakes, stringing together hits and tying the game at five apiece.

“It’s hard to get punched in the gut or in the mouth,” Vitello said. “This group, it’s a different group how they remain calm.”

However, Evansville’s lead didn’t last long as Burke blasted a double to left-center, bringing home Moore after he walked aboard. The Tennessse offense scored in four of the first five innings, showcasing consistency throughout the order. 

“It’s the most dangerous lineup I’ve seen in 16 years as head coach,” Evansville head coach Wes Carroll said postgame.

The Vols tacked on one more thanks to a Billy Amick infield single and an overthrow at first. Burke scored from second on the play and Ensley squeezed another single through the right side to bring in Amick, extending the Tennessee lead to 8-5. 

Causey continued to deal in the sixth, stranding two in scoring position. Kirby Connell took over for Causey in the seventh, sitting down the Aces in order in the top of the frame. 

In the bottom of the seventh Amick started a Tennessee two-out rally that separated the Vols from the Purple Aces. After what looked to be a quick inning Ensley made Evansville pay, sending a ball into the porches for another three-run shot.

Amick and Dreiling scored along with Ensley doubling the Tennessee lead to six. 

The Purple Aces put up a fight in the top of the ninth, notching three hits and a run off of Connell. However, it was too little too late as Aaron Combs took the mound in relief and worked out of a bases-loaded jam after walking his first batter.

The reliever struck out three straight, stranding three and stifling the Evansville rally.

The Vols and Purple Aces will face off again tomorrow as the Volunteers are a win away to returning to Omaha for the second consecutive year. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. EST and the game can be viewed on ESPN2 and ESPN+.