Joyce’s ‘Historic’ Outing Just The Start For The ‘Volunteer Fireman’

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Tony Vitello asked the kids lining the first base line asking for autographs to wait for him as he strolled to the gathered media in the right field following the Vols’, 5-3, series clinching win over No. 19 Auburn at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

“How about Ben Joyce?” Vitello said before his postgame media scrum began.

How about Ben Joyce, indeed.

The Knoxville native posted the best outing of his career and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Vols. Joyce faced 12 batters and recorded 12 outs as Cole Foster’s single up the middle marked the only Auburn batter that reached base against Joyce.

“It’s really a historic outing,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said.

The outing ended up being historic, but it began with a challenge that Joyce hasn’t faced in his first healthy season at Tennessee.

Vitello and pitching coach Frank Anderson called Joyce’s number with runners on first and second and nobody out in a 3-3 game in the top of the sixth inning.

The Walters State transfer had 18 appearances on the season entering Sunday’s rubber match, but few came in big moments and none came in a moment as big as the sixth inning.

It took Joyce just three pitches to end the jam and exit the inning with the tie preserved, inducing a double play and fly out to exit the inning unscathed.

“I know I have a great defense behind me,” Joyce said. “I know they’re going to make plays for me back there so it gives you a lot of confidence as a pitcher to just know you can throw strikes and get a ground ball and have a double play there and then one more to get out of it. Having the confidence in the guys behind me really gives you a lot of confidence as a pitcher.”

After Joyce dominated in the seventh and eighth inning, Jordan Beck gave the Vols the lead with a two-run blast. No one ever got loose in the bullpen, the ninth inning was Joyce’s.

“I ain’t the smartest fellow, but I ain’t taking that guy out of the game nor are any of the other coaches,” Vitello said.

While we hadn’t seen Joyce work through a situation like he did in the sixth inning, no one has ever done what Joyce did in the seventh inning. The redshirt-junior threw the fastest pitch in college baseball history. 

Joyce’s fastball clocked in at 105.5 mph on YakkerTracker and 105 mph Stalker — which Vitello said is Tennessee’s most accurate radar.

Of Joyce’s 33 fastballs thrown against Auburn, 28 were 103 mph or greater, 15 were 104 mph or greater and five were 105 mph or greater.

“It’s really a historic outing,” Vitello said.

“I’m in the outfield just in awe,” Jordan Beck said. “He’s up there throwing 103 on the normal and I don’t know how many people on this planet can do that. I’m just glad he’s on our team and I’m not facing him.”

While we haven’t seen Joyce throw 105 mph, we have seen him throw jaw dropping fastballs all season.

We haven’t seen the stability and endurance Joyce displayed, doubling his previously long outing.

The redshirt-junior had his offspeed action working as well as it has all season. The development of the slider that Joyce admits has been “a huge work in progress” is the scary part about Joyce. As good as he’s been, there’s even more room to grow.

Vitello talked at length earlier in the season about how Joyce just needed game reps to reach his potential. So, how has Joyce improved now that he’s gotten an abundance of game reps?

“Just a lot more comfortable on the mound,” Joyce said. “Coming back from Tommy John, that was a big thing. Just trying to get comfortable on the mound again and especially with the offspeed pitches. That’s kind of a new thing for me. Being able to throw those in any count. It’s a lot different from the fall for sure and I’m continuing to feel a lot more comfortable.”

How does Joyce’s dominant outing change his role in Tennessee’s bullpen moving forward? Vitello confirmed that it would increase, but that might have been the case anyway

“He just needed the opportunity to go out there and do those things,” Vitello said. “Just needed reps and if you’re going to go off today you probably say ‘the head coach was a little too slow in building him up’ but we want to be at our best in May and June and I think Ben’s going to be at his best in May and June. If anything, the coaching staff did definitely call that a few times.”

Watching Ben Joyce was a sight to behold in the Vols’ thrilling win over No. 19 Auburn. We’re only going to see that sight more-and-more as the march to postseason play continues.

Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.