Tennessee showcased its offensive potential Thursday night, launching three home runs in a 14-4 win over Kentucky. Two days after being held to one run against Lipscomb, the Vols got production throughout its lineup, as every starter had at least one hit and four drove in multiple runs.
Kentucky took a 3-0 lead of Chad Dallas on a pair of home runs, before the Vols broke out for seven in the second inning. The first two batters reached against Kentucky’s starter Cole Stupp, before Jordan Beck hit the 2-2 pitch deep to left center, tying the game at 3-3.
“The only thing I honestly remember was the pitch that I swung through was a changeup in the dirt,” Beck said. “And then I remember I watched on video before the game, he usually came back with another changeup, and I hit that one. I squared it up, used my legs as my coach has been preaching.”
Tennessee continued to ambush Stupp, as Pete Derkay singled and Jackson Greer homered on the next two pitches he threw, giving the Vols a 5-3 lead. They put two more runners on and Drew Gilbert drove them both in before Kentucky recorded the second out.
Kentucky chipped away with another run off Dallas in the third, but the Vols, not satisfied with just seven runs, added another five in the next inning. They took advantage of some sloppy play on Kentucky’s part, needing just one hit in the rally.
Kentucky forced in two runs on a walk and a hit batter, before another pair scored on an error by the first baseman T. J. Collett. The Vols capped the inning with a run on a double-steal.
Luc Lipcius led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run, his sixth of the season. The Vols continued to hit the ball out of the yard. With the three more tonight, the Vols have hit 27 homers in SEC play and 23 in their last 10 games.
Stupp worked just 1.1 innings and was charged with seven runs. Kentucky’s next two arms out of the bullpen Zach Kammin and Austin Strickland, did not fare much better, as they surrendered four and three runs, respectively.
While they didn’t score again, the Vols continued to pressure Kentucky’s staff. They totaled 15 hits and four walks. As a whole, Tennessee did a better job of capitalizing with men on. They left 10 men on base, down from the 13 they left Tuesday.
Derkay led the Vols with three hits and two runs scored. Beck finished 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and three runs scored. His fellow Gilbert also drove in three runs.
“I think it’s a little bit of the rhythm, like pitcher’s rhythm, how the game goes,” Beck said on the offensive improvement. “I think we had a little bit more energy tonight, we swung at better pitches. Tuesday night, I do believe we put some good swings on the ball Tuesday. It seems like not a lot of the ball that we hit good were falling or we were getting on base with them. It just kind of went out way tonight.”
On the mound, Dallas was not quite as dominant as he’s been in his last two starts. He gave up two home runs and five hits in the first three innings, and even the outs he recorded were loud ones. But he battled to give the Vols 3.0 shutout innings to end his night, finishing with seven strikeouts in 6.0 frames.
“Frank (Anderson) said it in the locker room, it one of his favorite outings Chad Dallas has ever had,” head coach Tony Vitello said on Dallas. “It’s not as appealing in the box score maybe as a couple others, but it dang sure was kind of a blood and guts effort, and I think that’s a lot of who Chad and his teammates are.”
In a game that looked early on as if neither starter would make it past the first third, especially with a 20-minute rain delay threatening to cut Dallas’ night short, the innings he gave the Vols saved their bullpen from being overworked in the series opener.
“I’m glad that I settled in and kept fighting,” Dallas said. “And seeing the offense do what they were doing was really big. It made me want to keep going for them and just keep competing.”
Kirby Connell, Christian Delashmit, Will Mabrey and Elijah Pleasants combined for 3.0 scoreless to finish the game. With Connell, the only regular weekend arm, working just an inning, the mainstays of Tennessee’s pen should be fully rested for the next two games.
The Vols will be back in action tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. ET as they look to lock up a series win. Lefthander Will Heflin (2-1, 3.83) will start for Tennessee, while Kentucky’s starter has not yet been announced.
“I think we’re making big leaps, showing everybody what we can do, especially with the lineup coming around, swinging big sticks,” Dallas said. “I think we’re getting there . . . hopefully we can just keep improving day by day.”