Tennessee baseball run ruled Alabama A&M, 23-1, for the consecutive game Wednesday evening to move its record above .500 for the first time on the season.
The win was the Vols’ second consecutive over their SWAC foe as Tennessee earned victories in its first two midweek games of the season. There’s not many conclusions to draw from dominating an overmatched midweek foe, but it was a career day for Charlie Taylor and the Vols’ pitching dominated for the second consecutive game.
Charlie Taylor recorded just two hits last season. He exceeded that number with extra-base hits Wednesday. The catcher tripled and hit two home runs in a four-of-five performance at the plate. The junior flirted with a cycle, needing only a double to complete it but in his final at-bat homered for the second time instead.
“I think he just needed a new bat,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said postgame. “Louisville (Slugger) takes care of us and he had a certain size bat he wanted, a certain modification. You know, they got him hooked up today and he mentioned in the cage he likes it and it’s feeling good.
“He’s fully capable of that. He’s as strong as anybody in the weight room and part of that is work ethic by nature and he’s pretty strong too. … When he gets it, he can run it out of here and he did a couple times, I think, in the Fall World Series. One of them was a walk off.”
The pitching success started with Zander Sechrist who retired six batters while surrendering one walk and striking out one batter in his second appearance of the season.
Sechrist was Tennessee’s midweek starting pitcher a season again but is looking to expand his role into the weekend this season. The junior earned limited action in Tennessee’s Sunday win over UC-San Diego.
“Steady Eddie,” Vitello said of Sechrist. “He’s a guy you can trust to field his position, who can come in and throw strikes, have composure when he comes out of the bullpen, but also he’s done a phenomenal job for us starting when we give him the opportunity.”
RHP Aaron Combs followed Sechrist Wednesday after also earning a limited opportunity in the season’s opening weekend. Combs retired the side and struck out one in his lone inning of action.
Tony Vitello isn’t a fan of the new run-rule rule because it limits the opportunities for young pitchers, specifically commenting on the need to get JJ Garcia innings in the preseason.
Garcia got his first run as a Vol Wednesday, giving up the Bulldogs’ only run. After retiring the side in the fourth, Garcia surrendered a leadoff triple in the fifth inning. It looked like freshman may get out of the jam after striking out consecutive batters. However, a Jalen Ford bunt single brought in the run.
The Statesville, North Carolina native struck out three in two innings of action.
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RHP Bryce Jenkins earned an inning of action where he struck out two batters and retire the side in order.
RHP Zach Joyce pitched the final inning where he flashed a fastball sitting 94-95 mph and struck out the side.
“He just makes me feel good in the dugout – I was telling Seth Halvorsen,” Vitello said. “He was next to me. Certain guys go about it differently, so it’s not like guys can’t do well out there or give you that ‘feel good.’ But yesterday it was [AJ] Russell, today it was him. Obviously getting results, but the presence itself – it’s pretty dang good with his stuff coming out, too.”
Tennessee’s success at the plate was just as much about Alabama A&M’s defensive incompetence than the Vols’ prowess, but there was still many Vols who factored.
In fact, 12 players recorded hits and 15 reached base in the Wednesday evening win.
Griffin Merritt and Kavares Tears were the only Tennessee players that joined Taylor with multiple hits while Tears, Logan Chambers and Ethan Payne joined him with multiple runs batted in.
Tennessee returns to the field this weekend when they host Dayton to Lindsey Nelson Stadium for a three-game series. First pitch is at 4:30 p.m. ET for Friday’s series opener. The SEC Network+ will stream all three games.