It seemed Jordan Beck’s first triple of the season in the first inning was an omen for another Tennessee midweek domination over its newest victim, in-state rival Lipscomb.
The Vols entered Tuesday evening’s matchup having outscored non-conference opponents 228-45. Of those opponents which hailed from non-Power 5 conferences, only ETSU had been able to keep things interesting through the first few innings.
But on a rainy day at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, Caleb Ketchup of Lipscomb represented the tying run on second in a three-run ballgame into the sixth inning. The Bisons, for the time being, had an ounce of hope in upsetting the No. 1 Vols.
But Tennessee, thanks in part to a few swings of the bat from junior right fielder Jordan Beck, would soon extinguish that hope. The Vols were able to cruise to their 20th straight victory of the season, a somewhat comfortable 5-1 outing over Lipscomb behind a pair of hits and, subsequently, pair of runs from Beck.
Beck, recently dubbed ‘Mike Honcho’ by Vols head coach Tony Vitello, represented most of Tennessee’s offense Tuesday evening. His first run was an easy one, scoring on a wild pitch after his two-out triple in the first inning. His second wasn’t as simple.
After the Bisons threatened in the top of the sixth, Beck left no doubt with a 451-foot moonshot to left field to put Tennessee up, 4-0. From there, Tennessee’s bullpen was able to control the remainder of the outing.
“To be honest, that was probably one of the better struck balls I’ve had here, probably in my career,” Beck said on his seventh home run of the season. “That was a good feeling, and hopefully many more of those come.”
Lipscomb would threaten just one more time throughout the night, scoring a runner with a Tiger Borom groundout RBI in the top of the eighth. Enter junior RHP Mark McLaughlin.
McLaughlin recorded his first career save Tuesday, striking out four of the next six batters he faced to quell the Bisons’ momentum and exact revenge on last season’s Lipscomb upset over the Vols.
McLaughlin was one of seven arms Vitello used throughout the matchup, including starting sophomore RHP Blade Tidwell for the first time this season.
Tidwell was held back to start the year with shoulder stiffness, but was recently made available in Tennessee’s first sweep over Vanderbilt since 2009 this past weekend.
“Blade was ready to go this weekend, he was down In the pen a couple of times but he didn’t pitch,” Vitello said. “I thought he kinda maintained his composure, got his work in on Sunday and after coach Anderson and I talked about that bullpen that he threw postgame Sunday, we decided to give him the start, get to that second inning mark.”
“Kill two birds with one stone, get him more action. A bunch of birds, I guess. Angry birds. Let him warmup the way that he wants to, get a start, repetition under his belt, build up the pitch count and yet still have him available for possibly Friday but definitely by Saturday.”
The Vols stay within the confines of Lindsey Nelson Stadium for their next weekend test, returning to SEC play against 17-8 Mizzou.