The No. 19 Tennessee Volunteers continued their offensive surge as they topped the UNC Asheville Bulldogs 12-1 on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. The Vols improved to 9-0 on the season and are playing like one of the top teams in the nation right now.
The Tennessee baseball team has a partnership with Chick-fil-a of Knoxville, where each home game that the Vols hit two home runs, the crowd will go home with a coupon for a free chicken sandwich. Through six home games this season, Tennessee has yet to let the crowd leave without free chicken.
The team kept it up today as Alerick Soularie notched his first long ball of the year with a solo shot in the second inning to put the Vols up 1-0.
“Al put almost no effort into that swing,” head coach Tony Vitello said. “A lot of his swings have been over swings this season as he’s trying to be the leader of this offense. It was one of those days at batting practice where you just knew something was gonna happen for him.”
Connor Pavolony sent the crowd home happy when he launched a ball onto the street behind the left field fence.
Evan Russell followed Pavolony’s lead two batters later, as he muscled a ball over the 385 sign in left center field to extend Tennessee’s lead to 7-0.
“We had a lot of good at-bats today and we benefited off of a few big hits,” junior Evan Russell said after the game. “We have one of those offenses where it's hard to stop once it gets going, it feels like once something happens then it just snowballs.”
The Tennessee Volunteers currently rank third in the nation in home runs as they are tied with three other teams with 13 each.
Pitching Continues to Shine
Jackson Leath got the start for the Vols but only went one inning as head coach Tony Vitello wanted Leath to get used to the routine of starting, but did not want him throwing a lot of pitches today, as he is expected to get more innings in this weekend’s series. Leath finished his inning giving up one hit, but then sat down the next three straight Bulldogs.
Mark McLaughlin entered in the second to get the majority of the innings for the Big Orange as he went 5.0 IP, giving up just one hit and walking one while recording five strikeouts and keeping the Bulldogs from crossing the plate.
“This team pitches with a lot of confidence,” McLaughlin said. “We just need to keep pounding the zone and let everything take care of itself."
Elijah Pleasants pitched the seventh, while Will Mabrey picked up two outs in the eighth until Kody Davidson came in to record the final four outs of the game. Those three combined for three innings giving up just two hits with Mabrey allowing the only run of the game to cross. They also totaled four strikeouts as they kept the Bulldogs off balance to close the game out.
Big Orange Bench Bats
Tennessee bench players have excelled this season in pinch hitting opportunities led by senior Pete Derkay, who is currently hitting .833 in such chances. Derkay pinch hit for Jordan Beck in the sixth inning and proceeded to knock a single up the middle to bring in a run. Derkay came back up in the seventh and roped a double to center field which drove in a run and another teammate scored on a throwing error by the right fielder.
Matt Turino came off the bench to chip in one hit and a run while also working a walk as he improved his season average to .286.
Austin Knight worked a walk in his only plate appearance when he replaced Jake Rucker in the sixth and came around to score on Derkay’s double.
The Vols enter into a three game series against the George Washington Colonials on a roll as the Big Orange are 9-0 and are averaging 11.2 runs per game while only allowing 1.8 runs on defense. The first game of the series will be on Friday Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. ET.