Vols Start 2019 Season with Sweep of Appalachian State

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Game 2 Recap

(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

After winning its season opener on Friday night, Tennessee (2-0) secured its first series win of the season by beating Appalachian State 2-0 on Saturday.

Zach Linginfelter received the start on Saturday afternoon for the Vols. In front of 1,523 fans at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, Linginfelter pitched five innings and picked up his first win of the season. The right-hander walked three, allowed two hits, and struck out five.

At the plate, it was a relatively quiet afternoon for the Vols as they picked up just six hits. Even when runners reached base, Tennessee didn’t succeed in driving them in. The Volunteers were 1-for-14 with runners on base, stranding 10 runners. With runners in scoring position, UT was 0-for-11.

The win marked the first time Tennessee has shutout opponents in back-to-back games since the Vols played a double-header against Morehead State on Feb. 17, 2006. It’s the first time they’ve begun the season with back-to-back shutouts since the 2004 season.

Here are the takeaways from Saturday’s contest.

A…cockroach?

After smashing a homer on Friday night, Evan Russell made a SportsCenter-esque catch in left field to begin the fourth inning of today’s game. Russell has been the heartbeat of the Vols in the first two games, bringing the energy at the plate and in the field.

“He’s kind of like a cockroach. You can’t kill him,” head coach Tony Vitello said following the game. “You always want someone taller than Evan is, you always want someone that’s maybe faster, and you’d like somebody that has more light-tower power in BP.

“But if you’re in a fight, probably standing behind Evan Russell would be a pretty good thing. Well, maybe standing behind Admiral (Schofield), then Evan behind him, and then stand behind those two guys and you’re probably safe.”

Despite the funky way of complimenting Russell, the picture Vitello is painting makes sense. Despite lacking the intangibles, the sophomore just gets the job done.

“I’m really enjoying coming to the park right now,” Russell said. “It’s good to be able to help my team win.”

Russell drove in both of Tennessee’s runs on Saturday. In the bottom of the third, he drove in Jay Charleston on a sac fly to left to give Tennessee a 1-0 lead. Russell then extended the lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI groundout to shortstop.

“I feel like I can help the team in multiple ways,” Russell said. “I’m a lot more relaxed.”

Garrett KKKKKKKKKrochet

While Linginfelter picked up the win, sophomore Garrett Crochet was a star on the mound. The left-hander entered the game in the sixth inning and promptly retired all 12 batters he face as he struck out a career-high nine batters.

“I was confident I could go out there and throw strikes,” Crochet said. “I started to pound the zone with my fastball, and it seemed to be doing the trick, so I stuck with it.

“I mixed in the changeup a little bit and the slider a few times, but I was mainly just working with the fastball.”

Crochet entered the season ranked No. 16 overall on D1Baseball’s 2020 MLB Draft Prospect board and No. 11 on Baseball America’s list. He had been one of the many options Vitello had to start games before the season, and after today’s performance, it’ll be hard to keep him in the pen.

“He’s kind of our swing guy,” Vitello said of Crochet. “He could be a starter by the end of the year. I think he could be our closer. He could come in and get a lefty out for you.

“He’s obviously talented, but he’s also a competitor.”

Final stats

No Vols recorded a multi-hit game in Game 2 of the series. At the plate, Justin Ammons, Jay Charleston, Russell, Pete Derkay, Luc Lipcius, and Jake Rucker were the only ones to record hits.

For Appalachian State, right fielder Phillip Cole and catcher Riley Smith were the only Mountaineers to pick up hits. Starter Tyler Tuthill allowed one run on two hits in four innings of work and picked up the loss.

Appalachian State has just three hits in their first two games against the Vols.

Up next

Following back-to-back wins to open the season, Tennessee and Appalachian State (0-2) will play the final game of the three-game series tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.

Right-hander Will Neely will be on the mound for Tennessee as they look to get the sweep. Right-hander Cameron Kepley will throw for the Mountaineers.

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Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also the host of the RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.