After missing the last two series, Chase Dollander made his return to the mound Tuesday night in No. 1 Tennessee’s 14-1 win over Alabama A&M.
The sophomore pitcher has been out for 17 days after a line drive came back to hit his elbow in Tennessee’s April 16 game against Alabama.
“It felt good,” Dollander said. “I’ve been anticipating this for 17 days now and it feels really good to get back out there. My arm felt good and everything else felt good. That’s all I can really ask for.”
Dollander came onto the mound for Zander Sechrist in the second inning and allowed a hit and picked up a strikeout. That was all the action from the Evans, Georgia, native on Tuesday. He looked promising in his return, reaching a top velocity of 97.7 mph.
Dollander didn’t spent a lot of time on the mound Tuesday, but he got some reps under his belt with the hopes of getting back on the mound this weekend.
“Coach (Vitello) told me I was only going to get two or three batters just to kind of get ready for this weekend,” Dollander said. “Obviously we don’t know what the starting rotations going to be like, but I’ll just accept whatever roll he puts me in.”
Tennessee exhausted its bullpen Tuesday, using 10 pitchers on the night. The Vols’ pitchers allowed four hits, one run and racked up nine strikeouts. Gavin Brasosky was credited with the win.
Offensively, Tennessee had its way with the Bulldogs, jumping out to an early 4-0 lead in the first two innings. Jordan Beck got the Vols’ offense going with a three-run homer in the first, and Tennessee didn’t look back from there.
Tennessee tacked on another seven runs between the fourth and fifth innings in a slew of RBIs and a pair of home runs from Kyle Booker and Blake Burke.
In the seventh inning, Ethan Payne hit his first career home run and also gave the Vols their 107th home run of the season, tying the single-season home run record.
Then in the eighth, Logan Steenstra secured the record with a homer to left field, giving the Vols home run No. 108 on the season.
“It’s good feedback for our guys, something they can hang their hat on down the line,” head coach Tony Vitello said. “But overall, we want to have good at bats and I think it’s a byproduct of that.”
The previous record was set by the 1998 team, which set the record in 56 games. The Vols set the new record in just 48 games and with 11 games left in the regular season, this year’s team is sure to put some distance between themselves and the 1998 team.
The win on Tuesday rounded out a five-game home stint in which the Vols went 4-1. Now, Tennessee shifts its attention to its weekend series against Kentucky on the road. Game one of the series is on Thursday, rather than the usual Friday start, with first pitch at 7 p.m. EST.
Vitello believes his team will be well adjusted for the Thursday start this week.
“I think it pinches both teams the same way,” Vitello said. “Anything that’s there, you should be on a level playing field. Scouting report stuff, you’ve got one less day to do it – well, maybe just be more efficient with your time and don’t waste time.”