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What Tennessee Baseball’s Pitching Staff Looks Like After Aaron Combs’ Outing Against Indiana

Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

Despite leading by six runs with one-out in the eighth inning, Tennessee inserted star reliever Aaron Combs to record the final five outs of the Vols’ 12-6 victory over Indiana in the pivotal fourth game of the Knoxville Regional.

Indiana was threatening with two on and had already scored two runs in the inning. After a dominant relief outing from Andrew Behnke, both Marcus Phillips and Dylan Loy combined for just the one out while allowing three hits and a walk. That’s when Vitello made the move to Combs instead of having him go into Sunday’s Knoxville Regional completely fresh.

But according to the Vols’ seventh-year head coach, Tennessee always planned on using Combs at some point.

“There’s nothing to save and today was a big day for anyone that was in the winner’s bracket because you want to get into a position where you can watch the game tomorrow,” Vitello said. “He was down there in the fourth inning, so it was a matter of kind of measuring it the way we wanted to and Behnke kind of flipped the script on us.”

Behnke entered with two outs in the fourth inning after a short Drew Beam outing. But he pitched a career-high 3.1 innings which pushed back Tennessee’s timeline on when it would use Combs.

More From RTI: Everything Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Defeated Indiana In Knoxville Regional

“Aaron (Combs) always wants the ball,” Vitello said. “The fact he was out there to close it, I think made it a cleaner ending than it could have been and I think he’ll still be available for, again, whatever lies ahead.”

Combs did what he’s done the last two months, shutting down Indiana to end the game. He threw 28 pitches in the final two innings. Its unclear whether Combs could throw tomorrow but if the regional extends to Monday than the right-handed pitcher could eat more innings.

What does Tennessee’s pitching staff have left entering the regional final against either Indiana or Southern Miss?

Zander Sechrist will almost certainly start and is coming off back-to-back appearances where he’s combined to allow two runs in 12 innings pitched. Star reliever Nate Snead hasn’t thrown yet this weekend and has thrown up to 75 pitches in a number of outings in the last month.

Kirby Connell (34 pitches) and Chris Stamos (16 pitches) will both be available after pitching in Tennessee’s Friday night win over Northern Kentucky. Vitello also said that both Phillips and Loy will be available again on Sunday night.

First pitch for the Vols’ matchup against either Indiana or Southern Miss is at 6 p.m. ET at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

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One Response

  1. We must make contact with the ball and stop the strike outs. How many runners have we left on base? How many times have bases been loaded with no score? We have a great team but when we are flat at the top of the line up 6,7 & 8 must pick it up. We seem to run out of gas 1, 2 or 3 inning every game and we as fans sit on our hands in worry..even when we are 5 or 6 runs ahead.
    If we do not win the National Championship with this will be because if our pitching walking batters then giving up a home-run. Tony must manage the pictures better when they are obviously struggling.
    It’s hell to be a Tennessee Vol..because we are gluttons for punishment!

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