Jay Charleston Leads Tennessee to Mid-Week Win over Belmont

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(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

Tennessee picked up its second consecutive win over an in-state foe on Tuesday night, defeating Belmont 6-2.

Following a win over Vanderbilt on Sunday to avoid being swept, Tony Vitello trotted out seven different pitchers against the Bruins to improve to 22-8 on the season. The Vols are now 19-2 outside of conference play.

Zach Linginfelter received the start for Tennessee. In the junior right-hander’s one inning of work, Linginfelter walked one and allowed one hit. He threw 11 pitches and did not allow a run.

“He wanted the ball, he initiated it.” Vitello said of Linginfelter’s rare mid-week start following the game. “He was amped up the first couple pitches, but after that, he settled in, had good defense behind him and threw a couple pitches we need in SEC games.”

Will Heflin was the next arm out of the bullpen and received the majority of the work against Belmont (13-15). Heflin pitched a team-high 3.0 innings and allowed just one run as he tallied two strikeouts. The junior picked up the win to improve to 3-0 on the season.

As Linginfelter and Heflin set the tone on the mound early in the game, Tennessee’s offense struck early, scoring five runs in the first and second inning.

“The last two games, I though they’ve brought the right kind of energy to the park,” Vitello said. “The portfolio is becoming more and more diverse. The guys are getting good at different things.”

Justin Ammons walked to lead off the game, and after stealing second, Tennessee’s right fielder came around to score on an RBI single from centerfielder Jay Charleston. Belmont starter Michael Matter (0-1, 6.59 ERA) then plunked Andre Lipcius and Al Soularie in back-to-back at-bats to load the bases.

With the bases loaded, designated hitter Evan Russell hit a sacrifice fly to to centerfield, scoring Charleston from third. After Russell extended Tennessee’s lead to 2-0, first baseman Pete Derkay singled through the left side, scoring Lipcius to tack on another run.

An inning later, the Vols tallied two more runs to extend the lead to 5-0.

“It’s always good to jump on a team right out of the gate,” Ammons said. “It’s a good boost for the rest of the game.”

Freshman catcher Connor Pavolony walked to lead off the bottom of the second, and following a bunt single from fellow freshman Max Ferguson, UT had runners on first and second with no outs. Ammons would reach on a fielder’s choice in the next at-bat as Ferguson was out at second.

After Ammons recorded his second stolen base of the game, he advanced to third on a wild pitch as Pavolony scored from third. Charleston then drove in Ammons for the second time in as many innings on a sac fly to center.

Belmont would answer with one of its two runs in the top of the third on a two-out RBI triple from Zach Ehrhart. The Bruins would score their final run in the seventh inning thanks to an RBI single off the bat of Hagan Severance.

The two runs would be all that the Belmont could muster, as the Bruins tallied just five hits on the night.

Following Linginfelter and Heflin on the mound was freshman Elijah Pleasants. The right-hander pitched 2.0 scoreless innings and didn’t allow a hit. Pleasants walked just one of the seven batters he faced.

Sean Hunley was the next out of the pen after Pleasants’ day was complete. Hunley allowed one run on two hits and had one strikeout in 0.2 innings of work. Following Hunley out of the bullpen was redshirt senior Richard Jackson and freshman Chase Silseth. Both only pitched 0.2 innings of work as well.

Tennessee tacked on its final run in the sixth inning, extending its lead to 6-1 on Charleston’s third RBI of the game. Charleston finished the game 1-for-2 with three RBI, two sac flies, and a run scored.

“I was just locked in and focused,” Charleston said. “Every game is a big game and that’s what we focus on.”

The Vols now turn their attention back to SEC play.

UT (22-8, 3-6, SEC) will welcome No. 8 Mississippi State (24-5, 5-4 SEC) this weekend for a three-game series beginning on Friday evening. First pitch on Friday night is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET. The Vols and Bulldogs will then play at 6 p.m. on Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“We know they’re really good,” Vitello said of Mississippi State. “They know how to win, they’re not scared about going on the road.  We’ll have our hands full.”

Tennessee currently sits fifth in the SEC East standings, but it sits just 1.0 game out of third place.