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Tennessee baseball opened up SEC play with a bang, sweeping South Carolina in a dominant weekend at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Vols put together a complete performance, outscoring the Gamecocks 23-5 in the three-game sweep of South Carolina.
The win marked Tennessee’s third straight series win over South Carolina, a streak the Vols have only accomplished once since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992.
While the Vols’ dominated in non-conference play — posting a 16-1 record — they beat up on a lot of lesser competition outside of their trip to the Shriner’s Children’s College Classic in Houston.
Tennessee showed this weekend that the early season hype was well deserved as they completely eviscerated a South Carolina team that won two out of three over top-ranked Texas last weekend.
“I think that was something that wasn’t too big of a surprise because you look at guys like Luc, Redmond, Evan — those guys kind of know what it’s all about,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said of if the fast SEC start surprised him. “They should by now, but I think they also have a lot of influence on the guys just in a social setting. They have the right frame of mind. If the younger guys don’t know what quite to do they follow the lead but I also think some of these younger guys have a knack for knowing what to do.”
At the plate, Tennessee’s offense showed its balance and versatility with five Vols hitting over .350 on the weekend and nine Vols driving in runs.
The Vols extended their nation’s best home run tally, going deep 10 times in the weekend series. Senior Evan Russell tallied three long balls on the weekend and two on Sunday’s, 10-0, win.
Freshman Christian Moore continued his impressive debut college season, recording hits in three-of-six at-bats including a home run and a double. The Brooklyn native now has seven home runs in just 31 at-bats this season.
“We proved we’re going to keep swinging it,” Tennessee RHP Drew Beam said. “We weren’t just putting up big runs against no-name teams. We can do it against anybody.”
Few questioned Tennessee’s arms in the pre-conference slate, but with the Vols starting two true-freshmen and a sophomore transfer from Georgia Southern nerves and added competition could have led to let down performances.
All three of Chase Burns, Chase Dollander and Beam eased those concerns, giving up just two runs while striking out 20 batters in 19.1 innings pitched.
Burns and Dollander were fantastic but Beam stole the show on Sunday’s series final. The freshman from Murfreesboro allowed just one baserunner in 7.1 scoreless innings of action. Crediting his experience as a high school quarterback at Blackman High School, Beam’s SEC debut showed his composure and steady nature.
“He made it easy to be in our dugout,” Vitello said. “You felt calm and halfway through you kind of felt like a fan jumping on the bandwagon. The bottom line is, he’s a good athlete, competes and throws strikes and kind of gives you that deal — everyone has their own personality — but kind of gives you that deal that Sean Hunley had last year. Kind of a feel good as a coach where you know what you’re going to get every time out. He may be better some days like today, and last week wasn’t exactly his best deal but again, gives you that feel good.”
“He was as composed as I’ve ever seen a freshman,” catcher Evan Russell said.
Tennessee opens SEC play 3-0 and that’s immensely important as they head on the road for back-to-back series with top five opponents the next two weekends. The Vols head to Ole Miss next weekend before facing instate rival Vanderbilt the following weekend.