Vols outfield- Baseball

KNOXVILLE, TN - March 14, 2021 - Outfielder Evan Russell #6, Outfielder Jordan Beck #27 and Outfielder/Pitcher Drew Gilbert #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the UNC Greensboro Spartans and the Tennessee Volunteers at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

The No. 13 Tennessee Volunteers started the week off on the wrong foot against Charlotte but rebounded nicely to win their weekend series against UNC Greensboro. After this week, the Vols improved to 14-3 and moved up one spot on D1Baseball.com Top 25 list.

Let’s take a look at how Tennessee graded out.

Infield

Tennessee mustered all of five hits against the Niners on Tuesday, and Liam Spence recorded two of them. The Vols’ shortstop extended his hitting streak to seven games with the two-hit day.

That’s pretty much where the good things end for Tennessee on the offensive side the infield. The rest of the bunch went 1-11 with five strikeouts and left seven runners on base.

The Vols turned a tide going into their weekend set against UNCG, with everybody in the infield hitting over .300.

Max Ferguson seemed to have found himself after finishing the weekend leading Tennessee with a .545 average while also recording two doubles, a triple and a home run. He also plated three runs and scored four himself.

Luc Lipcius joined Ferguson in finding his success at the plate. The first basemen went 4-10 with a double, a home run, three RBI and a .538 on-base percentage.

Tennessee rebounded nicely over the weekend after embarrassingly losing its midweek game. Pillars like Ferguson and Lipcius gave the Vols the foundation to build momentum on the offense. They even saw Jake Rucker and Connor Pavolony swing a hot stick, .455 and .429 batting averages, respectively.

Grade: A-

Outfield

One hit and one walk. That’s the entire production that head coach Tony Vitello saw from his outfield against Charlotte. Drew Gilbert recorded the lone hit from center field and Evan Russell tallied the walk. Jordan Beck manned right field and finished 0-3.

The outfield saw Gilbert have a career day on Sunday, but both Russell and Beck struggled to keep pace.

Gilbert clubbed two home runs, including a grand slam to help secure Tennessee’s victory on Sunday afternoon. Throughout the series, he went 5-12 at the plate and drove in a team-high seven runs and crossed home plate four times himself. The Vols’ centerfielder also had the second-highest slugging percentage on the team (1.000).

Russell tallied three hits while driving in a run and striking out a team-high three times. Beck struggled mightily to the tune of a .167 batting average and a .214 on-base percentage.

Russell is hitting nearly .100 points lower than last season and has recorded just four RBI compared to 12 RBI, this time last year. Beck slashed .275/.398/.475 with five doubles and 11 strikeouts to eight walks last season through 16 games.

This season, the outfielder is hitting .215/.254/.462 with 13 strikeouts to just three walks also through 16 games. Tennessee will need Russell and Beck to regain their 2020 form if they hope to find any success in their first time in the SEC in over a year.

Grade: C+

DH/Bench

As with the two categories before this, not many good things happened for the Vols on Tuesday

Pete Derkay tallied the final hit for the Vols after going 1-3 on the day as the DH. Cortland Lawson, Kyle Booker, Hunter Ensley, Ethan Payne and Jackson Greer came off the bench for Tennessee and combined to go 0-5.

Derkay continued to generate offense for Tennessee, after he finished the weekend series with the second-highest average at .500, and he also got on base at a .571 clip, which was tied for first through those three games. The Vols’ DH also clubbed two doubles and scored four runs.

Greer, Logan Steenstra and Christian Scott came off the bench for Tennessee and totaled just six plate appearances and recorded one hit, a walk and three RBI.

Tennessee had good production from the DH spot, as Derkay finished the weekend as one of the Vols’ top hitters. The bench didn’t perform, even if they only recorded one hit, but more is needed against some of the best that the SEC has to offer.

Grade: B+

Pitching

Tennessee threw out six pitchers in Tuesday night’s affair against Charlotte and all but one had an earned run on their pitching line.

Will Heflin earned the start and gave up a run and two hits in just one inning of work. Christian Delashmit imploded on the mound and surrendered three runs after recording just one out. Shawn Scott finished the game for the Vols and he gave up two hits, two runs, and two walks in just an inning.

Kirby Connell was the lone bright spot for Tennessee on Tuesday. The reliever lasted three innings and scattered two hits and one unearned run while striking out two Niners.

The Vols pitching dominated in the bookend games of the weekend, and struggled on Saturday.

Chad Dallas threw on Friday and pitched 5.1 innings while giving up just one run and striking out seven. Redmond Walsh closed it out for Tennessee and struck out five batters in just 1.2 innings.

Will Heflin earned the start on Saturday and struggled as he gave up six runs in 2.0 innings. Relievers Elijah Pleasants and Mark McLaughlin combined to give Tennessee six innings of work and scattered five hits and three runs while striking out six to help allow their offense to work.

In Game three, the Vols just needed two pitchers to capture the series sweep on Sunday. Blade Tidwell earned the start on the bump and allowed just four hits and two runs over six innings of work while he struck out six batters. Sean Hunley entered in relief and gave up just two hits over three innings of work.

Tuesday and Saturday was a tough day for Vols pitching, but Friday and Sunday showed who they’ve been most of the season. Tuesday’s matchup against ETSU will be a nice litmus test to see if the Vols can find some consistency in their pitching before SEC play.

Grade: B

Overall

Tennessee didn’t show up to play against Charlotte and rapidly corrected that against UNCG. The offense was solid through seven spots and most of their pitching was able to shut down the Spartan’s offense. The Vols’ corner outfielders didn’t show up, and haven’t for most of the season.

However, that shouldn’t overshadow the overall good performance of the Vols this past week. They finished 3-1 and rose in the polls thanks to a long lineup and multiple solid starting pitching performances, as well as guys in the pen who can hold and shut down games.

Grade: B+

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