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Tennessee Baseball’s AJ Causey Dominant Again As Stakes Rise

Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — AJ Causey ran to the bullpen two at-bats into Tennessee’s 9-3 NCAA Tournament opener against Northern Kentucky on Friday night. He was trotting onto Robert M. Lindsay Field to pitch less than two at-bats later.

Entering in a 2-2 count with a runner on third and one-out, Causey’s did what he’s done his last seven outings. Delivered. He struck out Northern Kentucky’s Mitch Wood on the first pitch he threw and it took him three more pitches to get out of the inning and strand the runner on third.

“But in that particular instance, we felt like the best thing for us was Causey,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said postgame. “And he’s ready and willing at all times.”

As Tennessee’s season has progressed, there’s been fewer-and-fewer times that a ready and willing Causey hasn’t been the Vols’ best option. But Friday night was just the second time this season that Stamos didn’t make it out of the first inning.

Tennessee shaky dicey pitching depth, particularly with AJ Russell inactive, and any pitcher recording fewer outs than expected can serve as a chink in the armor for the Vols’ pitching plan. Causey proceeded to pick Stamos up, allowing just two runs on four hits in 6.2 innings pitched. It was his longest relief outing of the season and his nine strikeouts were his most since moving to the bullpen.

More From RTI: How Tennessee Baseball Knocked Off Northern Kentucky On Saturday Night

“It was massive. It’s the most pitches he’s thrown in one game,” Vitello said. “I think at the end he was still pretty sharp. At least, this time we took him out in the dugout so he couldn’t give me the sad face or try and fight me on the mound with it. … It’s a tournament. It’s four teams and every inning kind of has something to do with the next so what he did for us was enormous.”

Causey had success against Northern Kentucky doing the same things he has done for most of the season. The low-slot right-handed pitcher keeps batters off balance with multiple pitches with insane movement.

Tennessee third baseman Billy Amick joked that he almost popped his ACL the last time he faced Causey, and Northern Kentucky coach Drizzy Peyton said it looked like he was throwing a whiffle ball. The results against the Norse matched what Causey’s been doing the last two months.

In eight appearances since moving to a long reliever following two poor starts, Causey is pitching nearly 5.2 innings per outing. His 2.84 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings are all elite.

“Honestly my focus on what I was trying to do when I was on the mound,” Causey said on his change since the two bad outings. “I went from just trying to throw strikes to trying to execute elite pitches on the black.”

Big time SEC series, SEC Tournament and now NCAA Tournament. It means little as Causey keeps dominating for Tennessee baseball.

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One Response

  1. From a child AJ Causey has been one who listens and learns (even from his older brother).
    From a child he has followed a tenacious initiative.
    From a child he has been one of principle and poise.
    From a child he has endeavored copiously to develop brain as well as brawn.
    I know well of which I speak as AJ lived two doors from me and I am his “Paw Paw.”

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