Adversity found Tennessee early in its, 9-3, series tying win over Alabama Saturday evening. By the time the bottom of the first inning began, Tennessee coaches Tony Vitello and Frank Anderson had been ejected and starting pitcher Chase Dollander’s day was done due to injury.
We’ve covered those two issues at length in the stories linked above, but Tennessee’s response to the incidents was the most important part of the game.
A day after stranding seven runners on base in the game’s first three innings, Tennessee’s offense got off to a quick start.
North Alabama native Jordan Beck opened the scoring with a two-run home run off the batter’s eye in center field to get the Vols going.
“It’s kind of what we preach here— controlling your emotions,” Beck said. “If you let your emotions get the best of you it’s probably not going to be a good outcome for us. Coach V(itello) does a good job of teaching us that and kind of preaching that in the fall.”
The Vols added to their lead in the third inning with a hard hit Drew Gilbert sac fly on their way to only leaving three runners on base all game.
On the mound, Camden Sewell faced an abundance of adversity. The junior entered the game in a rush in the second inning and didn’t look to be 100% after a low line drive hit him in the foot in the second inning. Still, Sewell powered through and got Tennessee into the sixth inning with the lead.
“I thought he was elite,” Tennessee assistant coach Josh Elander said of Sewell. “You guys have seen that. He did that when we in Hoover against Florida. He has always been a guy. There is 104 mph down there and Redmond and all those guys. Cam is always a guy who seems like in a jam, he finds a way to get us out. He got smoked in the foot and his back was tightening him up. I let him back out there because I wasn’t going to take the ball from him in that moment. He was rolling. Tip of the cap to Zane Denton. Great hitter, really great swing on what I thought was a ball down. I am glad Cam is in our dugout.”
Alabama’s Zane Denton’s two-run homer ended Sewell’s day and pulled the Crimson Tide within a run in the sixth inning. Once again, the response was fantastic from Tennessee.
Mark McLaughlin maintained Tennessee’s lead into the bottom half of the inning and that’s when the Vols’ offense took the game over.
Beck took the first pitch of the inning deep to left field before Luc Lipcius hit a rare home run off of a lefty pitcher. The first of three defensive mistakes from Alabama catcher Dominic Tamez allowed Seth Stephenson to score the Vols third run of the inning.
“It goes back to Tony,” Elander said. “We talk about playing with emotion but not playing emotional. I think at times last night for whatever circumstances on a couple pitches here or there, guys were a little more fired up. Just making sure we reset, get back and know we have good players in that dugout and in that bullpen. Just play our game and do what we need to do.”
Beck continued his fantastic weekend reaching base in three of his four at-bats.
“The guy’s a big leaguer,” Elander said of Beck. “He’s a superstar, great kid. He’s from Alabama so this is one he’s had circled for a long time but it’s great to see him take some good swings and from the third base box, I thought he was great— he did a really good job in one at-bat just fouling off pitches, grinding through and taking a breaking ball for a walk. I think for his next, in pro ball, once he starts taking walks they’re going to be adding more-and-more zeroes to his bank account. Really cool to see him have a night like this tonight.”
Alabama never seriously threatened the Vols again as Tennessee scored the game’s final six runs to even up the series.
First pitch for the Vols’ and Crimson Tide’s series finale from Lindsey Nelson Stadium is at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.