Photo By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee baseball posted just a .204 team batting average in last weekend’s Hattiesburg Super Regional.
But that was no problem. The Vols’ pitching staff was simply fantastic for a second straight weekend as Tennessee punched its ticket to the Men’s College World Series.
Tennessee allowed just nine runs in the super regional despite a rare poor outing from Friday night starter Andrew Lindsey. In fact, Tennessee allowed nine runs in the first 12 innings of the weekend series before shutting out the Golden Eagles in the final 15 innings.
“The biggest thing is that the freebies weren’t there to build some momentum for us, we couldn’t string the hits together and that’s a credit to them,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “Not being able to let us have any momentum, that we had to work to get on with base hits, and we hit some balls hard, especially off Beam.
“They just really never gave us any chance to get going.”
Southern Miss scored four runs off of Chase Dollander in the third inning of game two thanks to a three-run Christopher Sargaent home run. But after Tennessee’s offense put up a six-spot in the fourth inning, Dollander got into a groove and dominated.
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Chase Burns was a star again for Tennessee, recording the final three outs of the Vols game two win before earning the save and recording the final eight outs of the Hattiesburg Super Regional clinching win. Using a triple digit fastball, Burns struck out five and allowed just two baserunners in the weekend.
“Burns was a little different creature,” Berry said. “Sitting there in triple digits, that’s pretty tough there with him.”
The sophomore right-hander was fantastic in the Clemson Regional too, allowing just one run in 6.1 innings pitched in a crucial win over the host Tigers. Over the course of two weekends, Burns allowed just one earned run in 10 innings pitched.
Burns isn’t the only sophomore right-hander that’s been fantastic for Tennessee this postseason. RHP Drew Beam followed up six innings of two run baseball agains Charlotte with six runs of shutout baseball against Southern Miss.
The Vols’ game three starter’s curveball has been fantastic in both outings and he’s located his fastball well.
“What worked well for me tonight: curveball spinning good, had the changeup, had the command of a few pitches early,” Beam said following the Southern Miss win. “We worked counts differently, worked guys backwards.”
In six NCAA Tournament games, Tennessee’s allowed just 17 runs for a measly 2.8 runs per game. That’s a winning formula that got the Vols back to Omaha.
Pitching has been Tennessee’s strength since Tony Vitello took over and hired Frank Anderson as his pitching coach. The Vols have ranked top 10 nationally in team-ERA in each of the last three season with this year poised to be the fourth straight. Tennessee’s 3.57 ERA ranks second nationally only behind Wake Forest.