The No. 6 Tennessee baseball team showcased nine arms and 14 players in its 10-1 win against Eastern Kentucky Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. After the win, the Vols are 25-5 overall, which is their best start to a season through 30 games since 2004.
“I think a big thing you saw on display tonight was the unselfishness,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “There is no way that many guys can contribute to a win unless there is a good environment. I’ve seen it when it’s different. When guys are hoping other guys fail or not passing on information to a guy because they are wrapped up in their performance. I think there is a sense of community in our facility.”
Logan Steenstra and Trey Lipscomb swung the big bats for the Vols in Tuesday night’s affair. Steenstra tallied two hits, driving in three runs and crossing home plate once himself. Lipscomb went 2-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Jordan Beck drove in two runs on a hit and Jake Rucker slashed two hits and recorded an RBI and a run scored.
Eastern Kentucky struggled all night at the plate. The Colonels recorded just six hits and two walks, good for just one run. Kendal Ewell drove in the lone run for Eastern Kentucky off of a single in the fourth inning.
Tennessee scored four runs in the opening inning. Lipscomb drove in two runs off of a double to left field. Luc Lipcius made the game 3-0 after hitting a sac-fly to right field. Steenstra capped off the first with a double to drive in Lipscomb to give the Vols a 4-0 lead.
“I mean, that Georgia Southern start was my first game since the College World Series in 2019, and I was filled with emotions and really excited to play again,” Steenstra said. “I think I had a little bit too much running through me there. Now, I definitely feel like I’m a lot more comfortable and I feel like a bigger part of the team.”
The next big offensive burst for Tennessee came in the bottom of the fifth. Steenstra slashed a 0-1 pitch to the right side of the field to allow Christian Scott and Lipscomb to score. Three batters later, Jorel Ortega smoked a single to left field to drive in Steenstra and push the Vols’ lead to seven.
All nine pitchers for Tennessee pitched just an inning. Jake Fitzgibbons started for the Vols and had a clean inning except for his two-out walk. Zander Sechrist gave up the lone run by the Vols’ staff. It happened in the fourth inning after he allowed two hits.
Jason Rackers and Will Mabrey made their first appearances since pitching against Arkansas Pine Bluff on February 23. Rackers allowed just a hit and ended up earning Tuesday’s win. Mabrey surrendered a hit and a walk but struck out three batters in his inning of work.
“They are ready,” Vitello said. “I think it was a slow build-up for both. I mean, Frank (Andersen), Woody (Jeff Wood) and I all see eye-to-eye where you need to play catch, you need to throw a couple of pens and then you need to face some of our hitters, and then face some opponent hitters. They’ve done all those things and it’s a lot of boxes to check. We’ll just hopefully trust our eyes and go with our guts when we are making pitching decisions. However, those are two good guys who will certainly be active this weekend when Florida comes here.”
Garrett Simpson started on the bump for the Colonels and lasted just three innings after giving up five hits and four runs (two earned). Simpson would be credited with the loss. John Farley was solid in an extended bullpen outing with four strikeouts in 2.0 innings.
Up next for Tennessee is a weekend series against No. 12 Florida, with the first pitch at 6:30 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.