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No. 19 Tennessee Downs UNC Asheville, Remains Undefeated

(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

No. 19 Tennessee baseball remained undefeated on Wednesday afternoon with a 12-1 win over UNC Asheville.

Alerick Soularie, Connor Pavolony, and Evan Russell led the Vols with home runs, while Mark McLaughlin (W, 1-0) turned in an impressive performance on the mound. Tennessee tallied 15 hits at the plate and was 10-for-23 at the plate with runners on base.

Jackson Leath started for the Vols on the mound, but he pitched just one inning. Leath didn’t allow a run in his lone inning of work. The junior right-hander allowed just one hit and struck out one. He did not allow any walks.

McLaughlin began the second inning on the mound. In his third appearance of the season, the freshman allowed one hit in five scoreless innings of work. McLaughlin struck out five and gave up just one walk as he picked up his first career win.

“I feel like I had three pitches this time finally,” McLaughlin said following the game. “Just pounding the zone in general.”

McLaughlin has yet to allow a run in 7.0 innings of work this season. The Johns Creek, Georgia native has now allowed just one hit, one walk, and has struck out seven batters.

Soularie got the scoring going for Tennessee. His first home run of the season in the second inning put the Vols (9-0) on the board to give them a 1-0 lead.

Tennessee extended its lead to 3-0 in the third inning courtesy of a two-spot. Liam Spence began the inning with a single through the left side. After stealing second, Zach Daniels drove in Spence from second on an RBI double to left field. Jake Rucker followed up with an RBI single up the middle to score Daniels.

Daniels now has 12 RBI through nine games this season. In 31 games last season, Daniels drove in just 10 runs.

“He’s (Zach) in a much better position to hit,” Vitello said of Daniels. “I don’t think he was a really good baseball player when he got here, he was just a really good athlete who aspired to be a really good baseball player.

“Now, he does a lot of things well. One of them is he is consistently in a good place to hit.”

Pavolony’s second home run of the season extended the Tennessee lead to 5-0 in the sixth inning. Two batters later, with a Luc Lipcius walk sandwiched in between, Evan Russell launched his first home run of the season. Russell’s homer over left center was UT’s second two-run home run of the inning, and it extended the lead to 8-0.

The Vols finished out the sixth inning with a five-spot on the scoreboard following an RBI groundout off the bat of Pete Derkay. Tennessee hit two home runs, tallied three hits, and drew five walks in the sixth to take a commanding 8-0 lead.

“Our guys landed on some balls earlier and hit them to the wrong part of the ball park,” Tony Vitello said of the offensive outburst late in the game. “Today, if you were going to hit it to left field, it was going to carry, but anywhere else it was going to hang up a little bit.”

Tennessee followed up the five-run sixth inning with a four-run seventh inning. Spence singled in the inning to drive in his eighth run of the season before Trey Lipscomb was able to steal home on a double-steal. Derkay then hit an RBI double to score Spence and Austin Knight.

Elijah Pleasants, Will Mabrey, and Kody Davidson finished out the game for the Vols on the mound. Pleasants recorded a strikeout as he pitched a scoreless seventh inning, while Mabrey ran into a little bit of trouble in the eighth. Mabrey allowed one run on two hits in two-thirds innings of work.

Kody Davidson entered with a runner on third and two outs following Mabrey’s appearance. Davidson proceeded to get the Vols out of the eighth inning with a strikeout. The junior also pitched a perfect ninth inning to close out the game.

Following a pair of mid-week wins over Northern Kentucky and UNC Asheville (2-6) in which the Vols outscored their opponents 27-2, Tennessee now turns its attention to a three-game series with George Washington (6-2). Friday and Saturday’s games are scheduled for 4 p.m. ET, while Sunday’s contest is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.

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