No. 1 Tennessee took the series opener at the newly-named Condron Ballpark in Gainesville. The Vols jumped on Florida early and coasted to the finish line.
The win moves Tennessee to 35-3 (15-1 SEC) as the Vols remain in first place in the SEC standings. Tennessee is now a win away from earning its third straight series win over Florida.
Here’s how the Vols got the job done Friday night in Gainesville.
Tennessee Jumps On Florida Early
The Vols nearly jumped on Florida in the first inning stranding runners on second and third after a pair of batters reached base with two-outs.
Tennessee didn’t miss that opportunity again.
The first five Tennessee batters reached base in the second inning on the Vols’ way to scoring seven runs in the inning.
Luc Lipcius worked a leadoff walk before three straight Vols recorded hits including RBI singles from Cortland Lawson and Christian Moore.
Jordan Beck’s second hit in as many innings extended Tennessee’s lead before third baseman Trey Lipscomb took a two-out, 0-2 pitch deep to left field for a three-run home run.
The senior’s 16th home run of the season ties him with Florida’s Jud Fabian for the SEC lead while also opening up the game one matchup.
RHP Ryan Slater was making his first start in SEC play filling in for Gators’ ace Hunter Barco. The redshirt freshman made it out of the seven-run, five hit second inning and mostly limited the damage from there in a short outing.
Slater stranded runners on the corners in the third inning and retired the side in order with some hard hit outs in the fourth. The Vols ran Slater from the game an inning later with one-out and a Lawson sac fly added an eighth earned run to the redshirt freshman’s second start of the season.
Bounceback Start For Chase Burns
Tennessee freshman Chase Burns struggled the last two Friday night’s after looking nearly invincible in his first seven collegiate starts.
In those first nine starts, Burns allowed just five earned runs. In the freshman’s last two outings entering the Vols’ series opening win over Florida, Burns surrendered six earned runs in 5.2 innings.
The Gallatin, Tennessee native wasn’t as dominant as he has been at times Friday night, but was much better than his previous two outings.
Burns allowed two runs — just one earned — in 6.1 innings pitched which was more than enough to keep the Gators at an arm’s length after the early offensive explosion.
Like Vanderbilt did, Florida used stolen bases and a RBI groundout to score its first run off of the tall freshman. Then a Mac Guscette solo home run in the fifth inning proved to be the Gators last hit off of Burns.
In fact, the Gators had just two hits off Burns as the freshman looked much more like himself in Gainesville. The command issues that plagued Burns the last two weeks showed its head a handful of times as the freshman walked a trio of batters, but the freshman never let it snowball like he did last weekend.
It wasn’t as dominant as we’ve seen Burns this season but it was a really strong performance and more like the guy we’ve seen most of the season. Most importantly, it was plenty for Tennessee to earn the series opening win.
Vols Bats Slow Down As Game Goes On
With Florida’s pitching depth thin, running starter Ryan Slaton from the game semi-early seemed like it may have paid big dividends by heavily taxing the Gators’ bullpen.
That was somewhat mitigated by the strong relief outing of Anthony Ursitti. The right-handed reliever allowed just one hit in 3.2 innings pitched and surrender no walks.
Tennessee didn’t put together poor at bats, striking out just three times at making solid contact a handful of times. Still, Ursitti was effective and while that didn’t prove very meaningful Friday it could the rest of the weekend.
Ben Joyce Flashes Poise
Tennessee sensation Ben Joyce is electric every time he takes the mound. The redshirt-junior has been very effective too, allowing just two earned runs in 14.2 innings pitched entering Friday’s meeting.
However, Joyce hasn’t been used in a lot of high leverage situations or left in to pitch through jams. Only five of the Farragut native’s 17 outings have come in SEC games.
With Tennessee leading by six it wasn’t exactly a high leverage situation, but the ‘Volunteer Fireman’ did pitch through a jam.
After retiring both batters he faced in seventh inning after relieving Burns, Joyce surrendered a leadoff walk and one-out single in the eighth. Joyce got through the inning unscathed with a pair of fly outs.
The Walters State transfer showed the electric repertoire we’re used to seeing, firing in fastballs at 100, 101, 102, 103 and 104 mph. Joyce also used a filthy slider for one of his two strikeouts.
— Ryan Schumpert (@rschump00) April 23, 2022
But it was the poise he showed in a longer 1.2 inning performance that made it Joyce’s best Tennessee outing in my estimation.
See Also from RTI: Tennessee Starter Inactive This Weekend At Florida
Tennessee looks to take the series tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. ET. The SEC Network+ will stream the game.