No. 19 Tennessee baseball hosted UNC Asheville in the second game of a 10-game home stand. In what was a cold and windy afternoon and night, also known as “Vol weather” by Tennessee players and coaches, at Lindsey Nelson Stadium the Vols defeated the Bulldogs by a score of 12-1.
Jackson Leath got the start on the mound for Tennessee and Blake Little was the starting pitcher for UNC Asheville. Leath played only the first inning, as Mark McLaughlin entered the game in the second, pitching 5.0 innings and earning the first win of his career
“I think one through nine, we’re better” coach Tony Vitello said. “Because last year we had to rely on some guys, freshman in particular, and some guys who weren’t as physical as they are now. Now think up and down the lineup, almost everyone can run pretty well and everyone’s pretty physical and has the ability to drive the ball and if it’s a good day, drive it out of the park …”
The Bulldogs’ Greg Gasparro got a base hit on the first pitch of the game, but the Vols stranded him on base.
Alerick Soularie opened the scoring for both teams when he homered into left field in the second inning, continuing Tennessee’s streak of scoring in the first or second inning in every game this year. Luc Lipcius stole his fifth career base, but UNC Asheville was able to strand him on base.
The next inning, the Vols added to their lead when Zach Daniels’ double drove Liam Spence. In the next at-bat, Daniels came home on a Jake Rucker single down the middle.
Tennessee had a burst of offense in the sixth inning, starting with a two-run homer over the left field wall by Connor Pavolony. After Lipcius was walked 4-0, Evan Russell blasted a shot just left of the batters’ eye in center field to bring the score to 7-0 in favor of the Vols. The fifth and final run of the inning came when Pete Derkey knocked in a run with the bases loaded in the sixth.
Tennessee’s offensive production continued in the seventh inning, starting when Spence’s single to left field drove in Matt Turino to make it 9-0. Trevor Lipscomb grabbed the Vols’ 10th run when he stole home. Then, when Derkey double to center field drove in Austin Knight, Spence reached home on an error.
“I think we had a bunch of good at-bats,” Russell said. “But I think we had a couple good hits … we have an offense that once it gets started, it’s hard to stop. But, if a couple things don’t go our way and we don’t get going, I feel like later in the game, then when ever it does, it’s like a snowball effect.”
The lone Bulldogs’ run came in the top of the eighth inning. Chris Troost got on the board after a sacrificial grounder by MJ Lucas.
With the dominant win, Tennessee baseball improves to 9-0 on the season. The Vols will be in action next on Friday Feb. 28, when they will start a three-game series with George Washington.