The Tennessee Volunteers held their first weekday matchup of the season as they beat the visiting Charlotte 49ers 8-2 on a wet, chilly Tuesday afternoon.
Elijah Pleasants got the call to start for the afternoon as he picked up his first career win on the mound. Pleasants got out to a quick start in the first with the aid of a heads up play in the field. Pleasants struck out the first man he faced, but gave up a single to David McCabe who drifted too far off the bag when he rounded first and was back picked by an amazing throw from right fielder Evan Russell to notch the outfield assist. Pleasants got the next man to ground out to short to get the Big Orange bats to the plate in a hurry.
The Vols’ offense picked up where it left off from the weekend series as Max Ferguson got the bottom of the first started with a lead off double. Thirdbaseman Jake Rucker put the Vols on the board as he put a ball on the asphalt in left field for his second longball of the season which gave Tennessee a 2-0 lead.
“It felt great,” Rucker said postgame. “I got a good pitch to hit, I put a good swing on it and it just felt really good.”
Pleasants gave up a leadoff single to start off the top of the second but worked out of the little bit of trouble as he struckout Jacob Whitley to end the inning.
Luc Lipcius drew a walk to be the first man on for the Vols in the second after Connor Pavolony flew out to deep right-centerfield. Liam Spence followed up the walk with a poke single into right field. A wild pitch from Trae Starnes moved the runners up to second and third with one out when a Ferguson grounder to the right side was cut down by the 49ers’ first baseman who threw the ball to home in an attempt to stop Lipcius from scoring and managed to catch him in a rundown.
Lipcius kept the rundown going long enough for the runners to advance to second and third. From there Zach Daniels sent a shot into deep left center field which was good enough for a two-run double as the Vols extended their lead to 4-0.
The 49ers responded in the top of the third as they pieced together two runs after Todd Elwood led the inning off with a double down the left field line.
Tate Pennington then caught the defensive flat-footed as he dropped a beautiful bunt that managed to get just past Pleasants on the mound and into no-man’s land for a base hit. Carson Johnson hung the first run for the 49ers as he singled into center which brought Elwood into score. A bobbled ball by Gilbert let the runners advance up a base which gave Charlotte men on second and third with no outs.
A sac fly scored Pennington on the next play, but Pleasants shut down the inning there as he retired the next two batters quickly to end the third for the 49ers.
Two Vols were hit by a pitch in the third and one drew a walk to load the bases for Luc Lipcius who worked a walk after seven pitches to bring in the fifth run for Tennessee.
The top of the fourth was quick work for Pleasants which brought Zach Daniels to the plate to start the bottom of the fourth for the Volunteers. Daniels showed his power as he crushed a ball well over the batter's eye in dead center field which measures 390 feet.
The monster home run was projected to go over 440 feet for Daniels’ second deep ball of the year. The longball was the only offense besides a Evan Russell single that the Vols mustered in the fourth as the end of the inning saw the Big Orange with a comfortable 6-2 lead.
“Zach has matured a lot, a lot of it is just growing into the game and he’s done a great job of that,” head coach Tony Vitello said on Daniel’s hot start. “This is a much higher level of play than high school and it takes some guys time to adjust and now he’s doing what he’s capable of doing.”
Elwood proved to be a pest at the plate as he picked up his second hit of the day on a missle up the middle that found turf to fall for a hard-hit single. He then worked his way into scoring position and then took third on a close call as Pavolony’s throw was on time to meet Elwood at the bag but he seemingly snuck under the tag. Elwood did as much as he could to help his team score outside of straight stealing home but it was all for not as McCabe flew out to center to leave Elwood stranded at third.
Pavolony started the fifth off with a double into right center, but could not manage to cross the plate as Spence flew out to deep right field where the 49ers backed up as close to the wall as he could to make the play.
Sean Hunley came in to relieve Pleasants in the sixth and picked up two strikeouts and a groundout in his only inning of work. Pleasants finished the game with five innings of work, six hits, three strikeouts and just one earned run to combine for his first career win on the mound.
“It was really fun being out there and getting the ball, it went a lot different from my last start as I worked a lot during the offseason with the coaches,” Pleasants said. “This summer helped a lot, I didn’t change much physically, but I changed a lot mentally and I think that really helped me on the mound today.”
Jackson Boss saw trouble in the bottom of the sixth as he faced men on first and second with two outs when Alerick Soularie hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning and let Boss walk away from the inning unscaved.
Will Mabrey entered to pitch for Tennessee in the seventh and sat the 49ers down 1-2-3 to bring up the bottom of the seventh. Nick Turnbull emerged from the bullpen and struck out Pavolony to get his night started.
He was quickly welcomed to Knoxville as Luc Lipcius crushed a ball up to center that one-hopped the wall for a double. Spence worked a walk on a full-count and the 49ers staff faced trouble once again as two men were on and there was only one out. Turnbull settled in and struck out Ferguson and Daniels to leave two orange jerseys stranded on the basepath.
Christian Delashmit entered from the pen in the eighth and only allowed one hit as Johnson had a hard-hit ball to Spence at short who did a nice job of knocking it down but could not get to it in time to toss out Johnson.
The bottom of the eighth got started as Jake Rucker had a hard-hit ball at the third basemen fall for a hit and then made it all the way around to third after a failed pickoff attempt bounced off the brick in foul territory and sent the 49ers chasing after it.
Jordan Beck entered the game to hit for Russell where he earned a walk and was then replaced by Christian Scott to pinch run. Scott took second on a no-throw from the 49ers’ catcher Jacob Whitley which put two Vols in scoring position with no outs.
A wild pitch brought in Rucker and sent Scott to third which set up Soularie to pick up his second RBI of the season as he hit a sac fly into center field to bring in Scott to give Tennessee its last run of the day as it went up 8-2 over the 49ers.
Star closer Redmond Walsh came in to close out the game for Charlotte as he struck out the first two batters of the inning and ended the game as Whitcomb popped out to short to give the Vols an 8-2 win and send them to Texas with a 4-0 record.
The Big Orange bats came to the park again today as the Vols posted 8 runs on 10 hits and six walks for the day. The pitching staff was once again lights out as it has only allowed five runs over the season’s first four games.
The Volunteers look to carry this momentum this weekend as the team will head to Round Rock, Texas to take on Texas Tech on Friday night, Houston on Saturday afternoon, and finish up with Stanford at noon on Sunday. The games will be played at Dell Diamond, the home of the Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate the Round Rock Express. The games will be streamed on FloBaseball all weekend.