No. 20 Tennessee Baseball Gets Back on Track with Win over ETSU

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No. 20 Tennessee beat in-state foe East Tennessee State 17-5 on Tuesday afternoon to get back in the win column following a series loss to Wright State over the weekend.

The Vols (15-2) tallied a season-high 20 hits which were the most hits ETSU (12-3) has allowed this season. Seven of Tennessee’s nine starters recorded multi-hit games. Zach Daniels and Alerick Soularie each recorded three hits.

“The guys came out and played the way they’re capable of playing,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said following the game. “They played with a little bit of attitude to ‘em and were focused from the get-go.”

Camden Sewell made his 2020 debut on the mound and gave up one run in his return from injury. Kirby Connell, Elijah Pleasants, Christian Delashmit, and Mark McLaughlin finished out the game on the mound for the Vols. They combined to allow four runs over the course of seven innings.

Connell gave up all four of the runs given up by Tennessee’s relievers. The freshman struggled as he was only able to record one out of the bullpen. Connell gave up three hits and a walk before Pleasants entered and finished out the inning. Pleasants gave up one hit, one walk, and struck out one in 1.2 innings of work.

Delashmit was the most impressive reliever for the Vols. The freshman picked up the win to improve to 3-0 on the season in five appearances, and dropped his ERA from 1.04 to 0.77 on the season. He pitched 3.0 scoreless innings of work and struck out four. Delashmit allowed three hits and just one walk.

Junior Tucker Rogers (L, 1-1) started for ETSU (12-3) on the bump. Rogers picked up a win over ACC foe Clemson earlier this season, but he allowed six runs on seven hits against the Vols.

At the plate, ETSU was led by catcher Jackson Greer and Jake Madole. Greer hit his fourth home run of the season in the fourth inning, while Madole hit his fifth homer in the third, respectively.

Here are our observations from Tennessee’s bounce-back win over East Tennessee State.

Chip, Chip, Chippin’ Away

Tennessee and East Tennessee State haven’t necessarily been the best of friends since Vitello arrived in Knoxville as the Vols’ skipper. In 2018, Vitello’s first season, the two teams created quite a bit of tension throughout the three games in which they played. That tension carried over to last season’s games where both squads were chippy towards each other.

This year’s emotions began to stir a little more than 48 hours before Tuesday’s game was played. Following Sunday’s loss to Wright State, Vols second baseman Max Ferguson assured that he and his teammates would be ready for the Buccaneers, stating that everybody on ETSU’s roster wanted to be in a Tennessee uniform.

Then, on Tuesday afternoon before the game, the Bucs were taking their time wrapping up pregame warm-ups. That prevented the Vols from getting their pregame work in. This didn’t exactly sit well with Vitello’s squad.

Tennessee didn’t mince actions in the process of beating its in-state rival by double digits. When Soularie hit his first home run of the night, he glared into the dugout while rounding third. While rounding the bases on his second home run of the night, Soularie got into it with the Bucs second baseman.  The two shouted at one another as Soularie completed his trip around the bases, bringing on a warning for both teams from the umpire.

“Just a lot of history,” Soularie said. “That’s a great team we played. They got the best of us last year, so we came out with an edge knowing we had to get them back this year.”

Evan Russell got in on the action as well. On his three-run home run in the sixth inning, Russell swiped across the “Tennessee” on the front of his jersey as he rounded third while looking into the ETSU dugout.

Sewell Debuts

The Vols added a big piece back to their pitching staff over the weekend when Garrett Crochet returned to the mound from left shoulder soreness. They received yet another big boost against East Tennessee State when Sewell made his season debut after missing the first month of the season due to a back injury.

“It felt awesome,” Sewell said. “I couldn’t even tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this. It feels like forever. It was awesome to be back out there.”

“I just felt good seeing him out there,” Vitello added. “He showed what he’s capable of which is throwing strikes and getting bad swings.”

Sewell allowed one run on one hit, which came on a home run, over 3.0 innings of work. The right-hander struck out five and only allowed one walk on 46 pitches.

“Command started out iffy,” Sewell said. “My slider, I was yanking all over the place — wasn’t feeling comfortable with it as much as I needed to be. Fastball was there, which was good. The defense played great behind me and that helped a lot.”

Bats Come to Life

It didn’t take long for Tennessee’s bats to heat back up after struggling to score runs against Wright State over the weekend. In three games against the Raiders, the Vols scored 10 runs. In the second inning against ETSU, they scored six runs.

Tennessee took a commanding 6-0 lead over the Bucs thanks to an RBI double from Daniels, an RBI single from Drew Gilbert, a two-run double from Liam Spence, an RBI single from Jake Rucker, and an RBI single from Soularie.

“The mentality and the juices were there in the first inning, but the runs just didn’t come,” Vitello said of the second inning. “The guys had the mentality they’ve had most of the season, and that made it a good game for us.”

ETSU got on the board with a home run in the third inning off of Sewell. The Vols immediately got the run back in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single from Landon Gray to make it 7-1.

The Bucs fought back to make it a two-run game with a four-run fourth inning. Max Ferguson tallied an RBI single in the fifth to extend the Tennessee lead to 8-5 before the Vols broke the game back open with a five-run six inning.

Soularie hit his first home run of the game in the sixth. Then after Gilbert drove in his second of the game on a single, Russell cranked a three-run homer over the left field wall. Soularie’s second home run of the game came an inning later in the seventh when he hit a two-run home run to the opposite field.

“Just staying simple with the approach and not trying to do too much to get the job done,” Soularie said. “In the first at-bat, I was just trying to work the count and get on base and the fastball ran into my bat. In my second at-bat, the pitcher threw an outside slider and I just stayed with it.”

Soularie finished the game 3-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored. His two home runs were the fourth, and team-leading fifth home runs of the season, respectively.

Tennessee scored its final two runs of the game on a two-run home run from Gray in the eighth inning.

Up Next

Tennessee now turns its attention to SEC play after a strong start to the season. The Vols will be in Columbia, South Carolina this weekend for a three-game series with the Gamecocks (11-4).

Ben McKee
Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He grew up an Army brat and lived in Alabama for a bit, but he bleeds orange. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also a co-host on the RTI Live Show and 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.