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Strong Pitching Pushes Tennessee Baseball Past North Carolina In CWS

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

OMAHA, Neb. — Tennessee’s Drew Beam came off the mound with a roar of emotion after striking out Colby Wilkerson to strand a pair in the fifth inning. Getting out of the fifth inning has been easier said than done for Beam this postseason, but the junior pitcher turned in his best outing in a month and helped the Vols earn a 5-1 win over North Carolina.

On a relatively quiet night for the offense, Tennessee’s pitching staff stepped up and helped the Vols improve to 2-0 at the College World Series for the first time ever.

Here’s everything to know about Tennessee’s win over North Carolina.

Pair Of Tennessee Long Balls Run Shea Sprague From The Game

North Carolina starting pitching Shea Sprague was effective early in his outing. He had allowed just one baserunner and hadn’t allowed a hit when Blake Burke led off the fourth inning with a bloop single.

Dylan Dreiling worked a walk with one-out but Sprague struck out Hunter Ensley for out number two and was close to getting out of the inning and preserving the tie. Then he hung a 2-0 changeup and Kavares Tears made him pay, roping a 389 foot three-run homer into the North Carolina bullpen.

After striking out Dean Curley to end the inning, Sprague was back on the mound to begin the fifth inning. Reese Chapman promptly ended his day, hitting a no doubt home run to right field on the second pitch of the inning.

Sprague was largely really good for North Carolina, but a pair of Tennessee long balls led to the Vols taking a healthy lead off of him.

Drew Beam Bounces Back

In Drew Beam’s first three postseason outings, he allowed 14 earned runs in 13 innings pitched. After Tennessee heavily taxed its bullpen against Florida State, they badly needed a better Beam outing.

That’s what they got. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but Beam pitched well and set Tennessee up in a good spot.

Beam was dominant early. He retired North Carolina’s lineup in order the first time threw and did it on just 21 pitches. Of his first 28 pitches, 26 of them were strikes as he lived in the zone and attacked North Carolina hitters.

Things started getting dicey for Beam in the fifth inning, and the middle innings are where things have unraveled for Beam so far this postseason. But he got out of the fifth inning unscathed , stranding a pair of runners on base with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.

But after a 32 minute delay from the fifth to sixth inning, Beam was ineffective in the sixth inning. Vance Honeycutt took him deep to left field to lead off the inning and then back-to-back singles ended his afternoon. But Kirby Connell would pick him up and Beam turned in a really strong outing that set the Vols up in a strong spot.

More From RTI: Hunter Ensley Exits Tennessee Baseball’s College World Series Game Against North Carolina With Injury

Kirby Connell Gets Out Of Sixth Inning Jam, Cruises

Kirby Connell made his mandatory appearance coming in to pitch in a big spot in the sixth inning. The veteran entered after Beam with runners on first and second and no one out.

He quickly got the first out on a slow chopper to second base that led to a fielder’s choice. That put Anthony Donofrio, who had 19 stolen bases on the season, on first base. North Carolina’s starting right fielder took off for second right as Connell threw over to first.

Burke paused briefly to make sure Donofrio couldn’t get in a run down while a runner was on third and accurately threw the ball to Dean Curley to get the runner out in plenty of time.

Two pitches later, Connell struck out Gavin Gallaher to strand the runner at third and not allow either of the runners he inherited to score— preserving the Vols’ lead a 4-1.

That proved to be a major turning point in the game. Tennessee manufactured a run in the bottom half of the inning after Colby Backus walked, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Dean Curley RBI single up the middle.

Connell then promptly retired the side around a softly hit infield single in the seventh inning. While Tennessee already led somewhat comfortably, that inning and a half stretch is when it felt like they truly took control.

Box Score

Up Next

Tennessee baseball now has two days off before facing the winner of Florida State-North Carolina on Wednesday afternoon in Omaha at 2 p.m. ET. The Vols are now one win away from advancing to the College World Series finals. They’ll have two cracks to do so, first on Wednesday and then on Thursday if necessary.

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