The Tennessee Volunteers came into the final day of the Round Rock Classic on a roll as they upset No. 1 Texas Tech on Friday and stole a win from Houston on Saturday as they came from behind with a big seventh inning to take the lead and improve to 6-0 on the year.
The Big Orange carried that over into Sunday’s game as they battled the Cardinals but put Stanford away with a three-run seventh inning which propelled the Vols to a 7-2 win to complete the sweep in Round Rock, Texas, and keep Tennessee’s year at 7-0.
The first inning was relatively quiet as the Vols had one man reach by error but nothing else stirring to start the game.
Tennessee’s starter Elijah Pleasants got into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the first as Cole Hinkleman knocked a two-out double and Christian Molfetta followed that up with a walk to put a man in scoring position early for the Cardinals. Pleasants focused in and got Kody Huff to ground out to second to get the Vols out of trouble.
The second inning was started by Connor Pavolony reaching base by an error by Stanford’s shortstop. Luc Lipcius then came to the plate with one out and crushed a ball into left center field for an RBI triple to put the Vols on the board first at 1-0. Liam Spence added to the lead as he hit a sac fly into right to bring Lipcius into score to make it 2-0 Vols heading into the bottom of the second.
Stanford responded in the bottom of the inning as two Cardinals reached base with a walk and a single. The Cardinals’ runners moved up on a sac bunt and one was driven in by a single by Tim Tawa. Drew Gilbert then entered for the Vols to pitch and retired Hinkleman to get Tennessee out of trouble to keep the score at 2-1.
“Coming in from the bullpen I just wanted to attack the zone, it helps that I have a great defence behind me,” two-way player Drew Gilbert said following his first career win. “I was just trying to pound the zone and execute against a great Stanford team.”
The game entered a pitching dual for the third and fourth inning as only one hit was allowed for either side when Evan Russell singled up the middle but was stranded on first after the next man flew out to right.
Stanford tied the game up 2-2 when the Cardinal roped back-to-back doubles hit by Hinkleman and then by Molfetta.
Tennessee responded in the top of the sixth as Jake Rucker singled through the right side of the infield to leadoff the inning. Rucker took second on a wild pitch to put himself into scoring position with no outs for the Vols. This proved huge when Tennessee pulled off a double steal; a throwing error by the catcher allowed Rucker to score to put the Vols in the lead once and for all.
Tennessee tacked on three more runs in the top of the seventh thanks to a two-RBI single from pinch hitter Pete Derkay and Zach Daniels taking home on a wild pitch from Zach Grech to make the game 6-2 Vols.
“We just try to be locked in at all times, you never know if you aren’t in the starting lineup when you will have an opportunity to contribute,” senior Pete Derkay said postgame. “The more locked in the dugout is then the easier it makes it for the guys on the field.”
Redmond Walsh entered the game from the pen to pitch for the Vols and struck out the side to send the game into the eighth.
The Big Orange added one more insurance run during the top of the eighth as Zach Daniels singled to bring home Lipcius after he reached base by an error on the pitcher.
Walsh trotted back out to the mound for the bottom of the inning and made quick work out of the Cardinals as he walked the leadoff man on a full count, but then proceeded to record three outs in just seven pitches to put Stanford on the ropes.
The Vols were retired quickly in the top of the ninth, but Walsh sent Stanford packing as he ended the game with a speedy 1-2-3 inning to give Tennessee the sweep of the Round Rock Classic to give the Vols some statement wins as the schedule toughens.
Drew Gilbert earned his first win of his career as the freshman tossed 4.1 innings in relief giving up five hits but only surrendering one run to keep the Cardinals offense at bay. Redmond Walsh earned his first save of the season as he went the final three innings of the game without allowing a hit and striking out four batters.
Zach Daniels continued his tear to start the season as he picked up the classic’s MVP award as the junior hit .333 for the weekend scoring three runs and driving in another three. He also picked up three more walks to bring his season total to six. Daniels is hitting an outstanding .400 this season as he has led the Tennessee offense which has put up 74 runs over the first 7 games of the season.
“We still have plenty of work to do,” head coach Tony Vitello said in a statement after Sunday’s win. “I know older guys like Pete (Derkay) are hungry to peak at the right time instead of having our postseason cut short. Plenty of work to do, but this weekend was definitely a confidence builder for us.”
The Vols picked up their seventh win on the season to improve to an impressive 7-0 as they enter a season long 10-game homestand beginning on Tuesday with Northern Kentucky at 4:30 p.m. ET and followed with another midweek game as they take on UNC Asheville on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. ET before entering a three game weekend series against George Washington.