Before the season started, Tennessee head baseball coach Tony Vitello said on several occasions that he didn’t expect to win many games by way of the home run.
Vitello would also quickly add that he hoped his team would prove him wrong. On Tuesday night, his team did just that.
In an 11-2 win over Lipscomb, Tennessee slugged seven home runs to improve to 20-2 against teams outside of the SEC. The Vols’ seven home runs on the night tied a program record for the most in a single game. Tennessee last hit seven home runs in a single game against Tennessee Tech on March 7, 1980.
“It was a combination of getting pitches up and not doing too much with it,” Vitello said following the game. “If anything, we swung with less effort, if that makes sense – the ole less is more.
“Against Mississippi State, I saw some tense swings. Tonight, I saw some care-free swings, and the results were there.”
It didn’t take long for the home runs to come. In the bottom of the first, Tennessee hit back-to-back-to-back homers off the bats of Zach Daniels, Andre Lipcius, and Al Soularie. Daniels’ homer marked his second in as many games, while Lipcius’ long ball momentarily tied Soularie for the team lead.
“I’ve been back-to-back, but that’s it,” Daniels said of the inning. “It was really exciting.”
Tennessee led 3-0 at the end of the first inning.
Elijah Pleasants made his first career start for the Vols. The freshman right-hander lasted just 1.2 innings as he threw 38 pitches to eight batters. A Clarksville native, Pleasants allowed two runs, though neither were earned. He walked two and plunked two batters.
“He (Pleasants) was able to grind through that first inning, but he was making the same mistakes in the first inning that he was in the second inning,” Vitello said. “He was too geared up, which you hate to fault a kid for that.
“He’ll be better the second time around.”
Lipscomb scored its only two runs of the game in the top of the second inning. After Pleasants loaded the bases, the Bison pushed a run across on a wild pitch and then scored on a throwing error to make it a 3-2 ball game.
Chase Silseth (W, 3-1) would enter in relief for Pleasants and pitch 3.1 innings on his way to picking up the win. The true freshman didn’t allow a hit, a run, or a walk, and he struck out five.
“He (Silseth) took the ball and ran with it,” Vitello said. “He did a nice job. … it was almost a flawless outing.”
While Silseth dominated on the mound, the offense managed to push just one run across between the second and fifth inning. The lone run coming on a sac fly from second baseman Jake Rucker.
Then the floodgates would open up.
As the duo did in the first, Lipcius and Soularie hit back-to-back jacks in the bottom of the sixth to extend Tennessee’s lead to 7-2. Lipcius’ two-run shot was his eighth home run of the season, while Soularie’s solo shot was his team-high ninth of the year.
The home runs kept coming in the seventh and eighth inning. With one on and two outs in the seventh, catcher Landon Gray hit a two-run shot to push UT’s lead to 9-2. The shot over the right field wall was his third of the year.
Pete Derkay followed up Gray’s two-run shot with a two-run shot of his own an inning later. Derkay’s second home run of the season gave Tennessee an 11-2 advantage and would be the last of the offensive outburst.
“It was a lot of fun to watch tonight,” Lipcius said. “We were relaxed today more than usual. … It was really cool.”
Following Silseth on the mouth was a bevy of relievers for Tennessee. Camden Sewell, Daniel Vasquez, Sean Hunley, Tanner Kohlhepp, and Richard Jackson would combine to pitch four scoreless innings as the Vols carried a combined no-hitter into the sixth. The bunch allowed just two hits and struck out four.
Tennessee (24-10, 4-8 SEC) now turns its attention to No. 2 Georgia (27-6, 9-3 SEC).
The Vols will welcome their SEC East rival to town for a three-game series beginning on Thursday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
“We’re playing a good pitching staff and also an incredible defense,” Vitello said of the Bulldogs.
Tennessee currently sits tied with Florida for fourth in the SEC East while Georgia sits at the top of the division.