The regular-season SEC Champion Tennessee Volunteers raked up postseason honors on Monday. Tennessee won three of the four major awards while seven total players occupied the All-SEC teams.
Tony Vitello won SEC Coach of the Year, Chase Dollander won SEC Pitcher of the Year and Drew Beam won SEC Freshman of the Year while star third baseman Trey Lipscomb didn’t win SEC Player of the Year honors. Auburn’s Sonny DiChiaro and LSU’s Dylan Crews split the player of the year honors.
Lipscomb is one of three Tennessee players to land on the First Team, joining outfielder Drew Gilbert and Dollander.
After earning limited playing time his first three years in Knoxville, Lipscomb shined once becoming the Vols’ starting third baseman. The Virginia native is on pace for one of the best batting seasons in Tennessee history, ending the regular season with a team-high 21 home runs and 74 RBIs.
“Without trying to give you any eyewash or anything, I felt as confident in him as any player since I’ve been here and there have been some good ones,” Vitello said of Lipscomb earlier this season. “Just knowing he’s going to be prepared, knowing he’s going to do the right things. Defense and pitching is what we want to be the core of what’s going on. Josh (Elander) spends so much time baserunning with the guys and a lot of that is just hard work and thought process, and he’s as good at all those things as you can imagine. When he’s in the box, even if it’s a slow night for him or he’s struggling, he’s so dang strong now compared to what he was as a freshman all he has to do is touch it, kind of like he did on the two strike one tonight, and it’ll go.”
After a breakout sophomore season, Drew Gilbert has gotten even better as a junior. The centerfielder is hitting .385 with eight home runs and 57 RBIs. Gilbert — who Vitello jokes is a “mad man” — keeps delivering the big hits that made him a fan favorite last season while improving his approach.
In 2021, Gilbert hit .260 in conference play before hitting .348 in SEC play this season. The Minnesota native is a stout defender as well, landing on the All-Defensive team.
Dollander has been dynamic this season since transferring from Georgia Southern. The sophomore is pitching his best entering postseason play, holding Mississippi State hitless in six scoreless innings Thursday night.
“I think he’s kind of one of our most improved players within the season. He just kind of had an interruption there,” Vitello said. “He’s a guy going into the postseason with which ever role we give him — he’s going to start a game for us at some point in Hoover and we’ll see what’s after that.”
Dollander wasn’t the only Tennessee pitcher to earn postseason awards, as freshman Chase Burns and Drew Beam earned Second Team All-SEC and Freshman All-SEC honors.
Burns dominated early in the season on his way to posting a 7-1 record and 2.53 ERA. The Gallatin native slipped slightly in conference play, posting a 3.40 ERA in nine starts.
“He doesn’t act like a freshman,” Vitello said of Dollander on opening day. “Well, he does when he’s off the field. He doesn’t stop smiling and acts like he’s six years old, actually. Like a lot of great players I’ve coached who are almost two different people in and out of uniform. When he’s on the field he’s very serious about competing, but more evident is— it’s important to him to be great. He wants to be great. … He obviously has advanced stuff but there’s a lot of people across the country that don’t have advanced intangibles and character to go with the advanced stuff.”
Beam doesn’t act like a freshman either, at least on the mound where he posted an 8-1 record and 2.73 ERA. The former high school quarterback is nicknamed “QB1” by his teammates and coaches and seemed unfazed by the big moments in his first collegiate season.
Back up first baseman Blake Burke joined Burns and Beam on the All-Freshman team despite earning just 33 at-bats in SEC play. The lefty made the most of them, hitting .364 with five home runs. The Brentwood, California native is playing his best baseball entering postseason play and earned the start at designated hitter all three games against Mississippi State.
Three players landing on the First Team is Tennessee’s most since 2005 when Chase Headley, Luke Hocheaver and Eli Lorg landed on the First Team. Five players landing on the First and Second All-SEC teams is the program’s most since 1994.