Tennessee baseball made easy work of Eastern Kentucky Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, run-ruling the Colonels 14-2.
The Vols used nearly every bullpen arm they have while hitting five long balls to earn a dram free victory before resuming conference play this weekend.
Here’s everything you need to know about Tennessee’s victory over Eastern Kentucky.
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Maui Ahuna Back In The Lineup
After missing the final two games of the Florida series, shortstop Maui Ahuna was back in Tennessee’s starting lineup against the Colonels.
While Ahuna was back at shortstop he found himself at a new spot in the Vols’ batting order. After hitting in the leadoff spot for most the season, Ahuna hit seventh against the Colonels. Ahuna spent time earlier in the hitting in the six-spot but seventh was the lowest he’s hit all season.
The Kansas transfer almost got things going in his first at bat when what would have been his sixth homer of the season drifted just foul. Ahuna had to wait an at-bat to reach base, doubling to left field to spark the Vols’ offense in the fourth inning.
The left handed hitting shortstop ended his night one-of-four with a RBI groundout.
Ahuna’s injury was never thought to be longterm or serious but getting the shortstop back in the lineup and ready to roll for this weekend’s trip to Fayetteville is a win for the Vols.
Johnny Wholestaff Day For Tennessee
Midweek baseball games often lead to an abundance of different pitchers throwing and Johnny Wholestaff games. But Tuesday night against Eastern Kentucky brought that to a whole new level.
Tennessee coach Tony Vitello used nine different pitchers without a single pitcher throwing more than one inning. Both Zander Sechrist and Zach Joyce surrendered a run on a solo homer and responded well retiring the rest of the batters they faced.
Nearly everyone who pitched for Tennessee performed well but a handful were particularly impressive.
Freshman AJ Russell earned the win by working a clean second inning. The Franklin, Tennessee native didn’t allow a baserunner while striking out two.
Sophomore Aaron Combs was on the mound for all of three minutes as he worked a quick fourth inning. The right hander struck out one and retired the side on just 12 pitches.
Regular weekend arm Seth Halvorsen only got to face two batters but did see time after struggling against Florida last weekend. Halvorsen looked like his normal self against the over matchers Colonels, picking up a strikeout wile retiring both batters he faced.
Freshman Andrew Behnke made his career debut, retiring the side in the seventh inning around a one-out single.
Long Ball Powers Tennessee’s Offense
Tennessee’s offense wasn’t fantastic against Eastern Kentucky but the Vols had plenty of long balls to power them to fantastic run support for the pitching.
Blake Burke got the Vols started in the first inning when he answered Eastern Kentucky’s first inning solo homer with a no doubt two-run homer to right field. Burke’s 12th long ball of the season gave Tennessee a lead it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game.
While Tennessee never trailed after the long ball, its lead stayed at one until the fourth inning. Ahuna’s previously mentioned double set up a Cal Stark sac fly but the Colonels were nearly out of the inning with Tennessee only leading by two runs.
Christian Moore had other ideas, however. The second baseman hit a three run homer that landed on the top of the right field video board. The two-out homer extended Tennessee’s lead to five runs and put the Colonels away.
Griffin Merritt continued his hot streak from the end of the Florida series with a no doubt solo homer in the fifth inning.
Rarely used Logan Chambers was Tennessee’s starting designated hitter against the Colonels and he made the most of the opportunity, hitting his first career home run in the fifth inning. Chambers wasn’t the only Vol to hit his first career homer as freshman Reese Chapman enacted the run-rule with three-run homer.
The win over Eastern Kentucky marked the 11th time this season Tennessee hit three or more home runs. The five home runs was the second most the Vols have hit in a game this season.
Tennessee resumes SEC play this weekend when it travels to Fayetteville for a three game series against No. 5 Arkansas from Friday to Sunday.