It took eight different pitchers, but No. 18 Tennessee threw its NCAA-best ninth shutout of the season on Tuesday evening as it defeated Gardner-Webb 5-0.
Freshman Camden Sewell (W, 4-0) made his third career start, picking up his fourth win of the season. Sewell pitched 4.1 innings and struck out four. He allowed three hits but didn’t walk a batter.
“Good stuff, the slider was really sharp,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said of Sewell’s performance. “He threw strikes, and when you throw strikes, you’re going to give up some hits. I’d rather see that than him walk some guys.
“To attack hitters means you’re going to give up some hits. He did both of those things tonight. Not a problem, because he’s got good enough stuff and composure to get out of those situations. He did it tonight.”
With Sewell dealing on the mound, it took a couple of innings for the offense to wake up. Gardner-Webb (18-19) starter Noah Davis (L, 2-1) didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, but when he did, Tennessee (31-11) took advantage.
“It was frustrating,” Vitello said of the slow start. “He (Davis) went to a cutter more than our scouting report had down. … He was cutting us up with his cutter.”
Jay Charleston led off the bottom of the fourth with a single to left and promptly stole his 29th base of the season. Shortly after, Andre Lipcius hit his 10th home run of the season, a two-run shot over the left-centerfield wall to give Tennessee a 2-0 lead.
“I was looking slider with a guy on third and less than two outs,” Lipcius said. “He hung a slider and I hit it.”
The Vols would strike for two more runs in the seventh after Al Soularie led off the inning with a single. After Soularie stole second, shortstop Ricky Martinez hit an RBI single to extend the lead to 3-0. Martinez would score later in the inning when Jake Rucker stole second, and on the Gardner-Webb throw to second, Martinez stole home.
Tennessee would tack on its fifth and final run of the game in the eighth inning when Lipcius drove in his third run of the game on an RBI single through the right side. Lipcius finished 2-for-4 with a game-high 3 RBI.
“I didn’t feel that great this weekend,” Lipcius said. “Me and (Josh) Elander got back in the cages and started from the ground up. When you’re struggling, you have to find something you’ve always done to get you back on track, and we did that today.
“It got my confidence up, and I took it out to the field.”
After Sewell’s day was finished on the mound, Vitello and pitching coach Frank Anderson called on seven different relievers to finish the game.
All seven relievers – Chase Wallace, Chase Silseth, Sean Hunley, Will Heflin, Richard Jackson, Andrew Schultz, and Elijah Pleasants – combined to allow just four hits in 4.2 innings of work. Silseth and Hunley were the only two to record at least one inning of work, while the others were only brought on to face a couple of batters.
Tennessee now turns its attention to No. 7 Arkansas (31-10, 12-6 SEC).
The Vols will travel to Fayetteville to begin a three-game series on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET both Friday and Saturday. The series finale on Sunday is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
Arkansas is coming off a series win over No. 8 Mississippi State. The Hogs won its first of two mid-week games against Northwestern State on Tuesday night, 19-2.