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Tennessee Uses Trio of Home Runs to Sweep Morehead State

Griffin Merritt vs. Morehead State//Photo via Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Tennessee Baseball used three two-run home runs on Saturday night to get a 6-3 series-sweeping victory on Saturday night.

The transfers came to play on Saturday night, as Griffin Merritt and Maui Ahuna were responsible for all of Tennessee’s runs.

With Tennessee’s Saturday night win serving as the second game of a doubleheader, Drew Beam started on a Saturday for the first time in his career. Although Beam ran into trouble in his final inning, the sophomore was brilliant through five innings and nearly set a career-high in strikeouts.

Tennessee’s bullpen was great yet again. The duo of Kirby Connell and Seth Halvorsen did not allow a baserunner, marking the second consecutive game the Vols’ bullpen arms didn’t allow a man on base.

Here’s three quick hitters on Tennessee’s series-sweeping win.

Maui and Merritt Shine

Left fielder Griffin Merritt got things going for the Tennessee offense in the second inning. After Zane Denton worked a leadoff walk, Merritt brought him home by smoking a two-run homer to dead center off the batter’s eye.

The senior’s night wasn’t done there, as Merritt knocked a two-run homer into the Tennessee bullpen in the sixth. Merritt’s home run brought home Jared Dickey, who had reached on a fielder’s choice, and the Vols extended their lead to 6-3.

Merritt’s second home run of the game marked his third of the day, fifth in the past six games and seventh of the season. The former Cincinnati Bearcat now trails only Blake Burke (8) in home runs on the team.

“He’s got a plan [when he steps to the plate], his swing is pretty repeatable, and he’s obviously looking to drive the ball,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said on Merritt. “You feel good as a coach what you’re going to get over the stretch of, call it the season or a week or a weekend, and today was obviously one of the better days for him.”

One of Merritt’s fellow starting transfers, shortstop Maui Ahuna, continued his breakout weekend on Saturday night. The junior leadoff man went yard in the fifth inning to extend Tennessee’s lead.

After Hunter Ensley got aboard with a leadoff single, Ahuna brought him home with a two-run shot over the right field wall. The Hawaii native’s bomb marked his third of the series and season, as Ahuna’s bat has come to life over the past handful of games.

More From RTI: Chase Burns’ Gem Leads Vols to Series Win Over Morehead State

Drew Beam Turns in Solid Start on Short Notice

Sophomore Drew Beam got the start for Tennessee on the mound on a Saturday for the first time in his career. Due to incoming inclement weather on Sunday in Knoxville, the series finale took place Saturday night in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Despite the abrupt schedule change, Beam was his typical ‘Sunday Beam’ self for the majority of Saturday night. 

Outside of giving up a leadoff home run to six-hole hitter Chase Vinson in the fifth, Beam had great command throughout his first five innings and was throwing the strikeouts to boot. 

Beam recorded eight strikeouts in the first five innings, two away from his career-high. Additionally, outside of Vinson, Beam allowed just three baserunners in the first five innings. 

The sophomore ran into trouble in the sixth, however, ending his day. Beam gave up a one-out single and double that gave Morehead State their second run. The Eagles’ five-hole hitter, Nick Gooden, then added another run with an RBI single to right field. 

After that, Beam’s day was done, and senior LHP Kirby Connell came on to pitch. Connell prevented any further damage in the sixth, and the Vols narrowly led the Eagles 4-3 heading into the seventh.

Seth Halvorsen Sharp Out of the Pen, Gets the Save

Connell retired all three batters he faced before Seth Halvorsen came on to pitch with one out in the seventh. 

Halvorsen was sharp in his series debut, retiring all eight of his batters. The Minnesota native threw 21 strikes on 31 total pitches and was dominant in 2.2 innings of work.

Halvorsen’s 1-2-3 eighth inning was assisted by Blake Burke, though, who made an incredible diving stop at the foul line on the second out.

“[He] made it very difficult to take the ball out of [his hand] today,” Vitello said on Halvorsen. “And that’s a good thing.”

The former Missouri Tiger closed things out in the ninth with his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning to earn his second save of the season and career.

Up Next

The Vols will look to win their fourth straight in a midweek battle against Lipscomb on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. ET in Knoxville.

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