Takeaways From Tennessee’s Winning Weekend In Houston

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Titans GM Jon Robinson Gets Emotional

Tennessee baseball steamrolled Oklahoma, 8-0, to complete its three-game weekend set at the Shriners Childrens College Classic in Houston. 

After dropping the weekend opener to No. 1 Texas, the Vols responded with back-to-back decisive wins over Baylor and Oklahoma.

Here’s three takeaways from a strong weekend for Tennessee baseball.

Freshmen Aren’t Supposed To Be This Good

Tennessee has a pair of freshmen pitchers that are starting in weekend spots. That’s pretty unusual, especially at this point in the season.

Chase Burns and Drew Beam impressed in their first two collegiate outings, but raised their level of play as the competition increased this weekend in the Lone Star State.

The highly-touted Burns earned the ball on Friday night where he dominated No. 1 Texas’ batters. The 6-foot-4 right-hander struck out 10 batters while allowing just one run, two hits and one walk in five innings.

The Vols would lose the College World Series rematch with the top-ranked Longhorns, but Burns did all he could do. Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello pulled him after just 81 pitches and the freshman will be all the more dangerous when he can go deeper into games.

“He was outstanding,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “Without sounding like it’s a boring thing or a bad thing, he’s just kind of been the same guy. That was who he’s been in scrimmages and also in the first two weekends for the most part. He just happened to do it against a more talented team than we’ve played to date.”

While the buzz around Burns was palpable coming out of high school and all offseason, Beam flew under the radar.

The high school quarterback missed his two final prep baseball seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic and injury. Beam earned the Sunday start the first two weekends and impressed in short outings.

Beam went a full five innings against Oklahoma on Sunday and was fantastic, allowing no runs, two hits and a walk while striking out six.

The Murfreesboro native doesn’t have the upper 90s fastball like Burns, but Beam continues to display great command both with his fastball and offspeed. 

Vols Respond To Adversity

Responding to adversity and never going away was perhaps the strongest trait of the 2021 Tennessee baseball team. The 2022 Tennessee baseball team got its first dose of adversity on the season.

Texas “beat up” the Vols in the final four innings of Friday night’s matchup after both starting pitchers — Burns and LHP Pete Hansen — turned in strong starts.

The adversity from the first loss of the season carried over to the start of Saturday’s game against Baylor. The Bears hung a four-spot on Tennessee in the top of the first inning and dominated the basepaths early in the game. 

From the top of the first inning against Baylor, Tennessee outscored its opponents 18-1 the rest of the weekend.

“You want to come back with a good answer or good response or bounceback today, whatever you want to call it,” Vitello said. “Then you kind of did it double because we had an answer within an answer so to speak because the first inning didn’t go our way. It’s good. They’ve made it a theme of this team and that’s something that went well for us last year and of course there’s a lot of core parts back from last year’s team, but there’s some new guys kind of taking up that philosophy as well.”

It’s just one weekend and Tenenssee will frequently see better teams than Baylor and Oklahoma in SEC play, but the Vols aced their first test at responding to adversity.

Tennessee’s Lineup Depth Continues To Impress

Tony Vitello said earlier this season that he felt this team was his deepest group of position players in his five seasons in Knoxville.

After Tennessee used all 18 position players to dominate Iona, it seemed like Vitello was correct, but it was just a bad Iona team. The sample size was still very small.

In Houston, Tennessee flexed its depth, starting 11 different and using 15 different position players in the three-game event.

Tennessee’s big name returnees had their moments on the weekend. Jordan Beck hit the ball hard all weekend and wasn’t properly rewarded but still added home run No. 4 on the season. Beck continues to look better this season, displaying a much better approach and patience this year.

Drew Gilbert and Evan Russell both had productive at-bats and moments in the 2-1 weekend.

But it is how many unproven Vols that have stepped up early in the season that is so impressive.

Christian Scott earned two starts on the weekend, hitting a home run. Freshman first baseman Blake Burke earned a pair of pinch hit at-bats on the weekend going deep in Sunday’s win.

New York shortstop Christian Moore was one of Tennessee’s most impressive freshmen this fall and preseason. The infielder earned the start at designated hitter Sunday and posted an impressive three-of-four performance with an inside-the-park home run and three RBIs.

Depth is one of Tennessee’s strengths and making up the lineup card every day is going to be a challenge for Tony Vitello this season.

Ryan Schumpert is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. Ryan spent three years with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program before joining RTI. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.