Tennessee defeated Western Illinois, 19-0, in the second game of the series at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Saturday. The Vols improve to 2-0 on the season, while Western Illinois falls to 0-2. The winning pitcher was Chase Wallace (1-0) and Jace Warkentien took the loss (0-1).
Here are two takeaways.
In his first ever start for the Vols, Chase Wallace looked like he was in midseason form. The right-hander went 5.2 innings, giving up only two hits, walking one, while striking out six on 72 pitches.
Wallace’s only bit of trouble came in the third inning. The Fighting Leathernecks got a lead-single from Tyler Estes, their first hit of the game. Wallace would then strike-out the next two batters. Shortstop Kevin Raisbeck singled to left to put runners on first and second with two outs. Western Illinois called for a successful double steal to move the runners to second and third. Wallace then hit Luke Schwartz to juice the bases. Wallace was able to make their three-hitter, Drue Galassi, pop out to second to get out of the inning unscathed.
“Throwing it in the zone and letting the defense work will bring you success,” Wallace said. “The first two innings, it was mostly fastballs. In the third, coach Anderson came out and told me to take a deep breath and to calm down, it’s just the third inning. Honestly, he was telling me what pitch to throw next and that was about it.”
Wallace would pitch into the sixth inning, striking out three more batters until coach Tony Vitello called for Elijah Pleasants out of the bullpen to get the final out of the inning.
Koby Davidson, Mark McLaughlin, and Drew Gilbert were the rest of the Vols pitchers in this game. They combined for three innings, two hits and four strikeouts.
Scoring in Bunches
Coming into the season, the Vols were not projected to have a potent lineup. In game one of this series, they scored just three runs. Today was a much different story as 19 men crossed home plate for Tennessee.
The Vols had just two runs until they exploded in the fifth inning.
Liam Spence led off for the Vols in the bottom of the fifth and worked a walk. Max Ferguson followed that up with a single to right field, which left Ferguson at first and Spence at third. Ferguson stole second base with no throw from the catcher. Zach Daniels hit a rocket to third which was batted down but no play was made.
The bases were loaded for the three hitter Jordan Beck with Alerick Soularie on deck. Beck popped out and Soularie struck out. Evan Russell came to the plate with bases loaded and 2-outs.
Russell sent a liner back up the middle to drive in two runs. Russell made his way to second after a wild pitch and Jake Rucker walked.
Western Illinois made a pitching change and brought in Parker Heidorf in the place of Jace Warkentien.
Landon Gray doubled on the first pitch to right field and drove in two more to have Vols on second and third with 2-outs. Trey Lipscomb recorded an RBI single to add another run. Heidorf balked to score Gray and move Lipscomb to second. Spence came to the plate for the second time in the inning and flew out, but the Vols did plenty of damage and scored six runs in the sixth inning to give them an 8-0 lead.
“I think it was kind of a matter of time,” Vitello said. “I don’t think we have the best offense in the country, at least I don’t think we’ve earned that yet, but we certainly aren’t the worst either. It was a slow start, part in due because of Western Illinois’ pitching but we also didn’t get it going the way we needed to. Once guys finally started shedding themselves of the adrenaline rush we were able to play and when this group just plays, they are pretty exciting.”
The Vols next big inning came in the bottom of the seventh. They scored seven more runs in no small part from Zach Daniels’ 3-run home run over the left field wall to improve the Vols lead, 15-0. Austin Knight also hit a three-run home run, his first home run in his career.
“I definitely feel more confident at the plate,” Daniels said. “Just hitting in the cage and seeing that work pay off if really great. That was a fastball that was up in the zone and it was just that preparation with coach Elander that got me ready for that. All the credit goes to him.”
Tennessee and Western Illinois will complete their three game series tomorrow at noon in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.