Tennessee Uses Big Innings to Top Gonzaga in High-Scoring Affair

Tennessee Uses Big Innings to Top Gonzaga in High-Scoring Affair


Tennessee infielder Maui Ahuna. Photo by Rocky Top Insider/Ric Butler.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Third-ranked Tennessee Baseball used an eight-run third inning, a five-run eighth inning and 13 total hits to top Gonzaga 17-9 on Sunday afternoon to complete the series sweep over the Bulldogs. 

Tennessee’s pitching was not at its best, but the Vols’ bats caught fire against the Zags bullpen in the third inning, scoring eight runs. 

The Bulldogs totaled 11 hits, four home runs and nine runs on the day, the most Tennessee has given up in a game this season, but the Vols were never quite in jeopardy of losing their lead after the third.

Here’s what happened on a sunny Sunday Knoxville afternoon as Tennessee won their 11th game in a row in a high-scoring affair.

Inability to Capitalize Offensively, Defensive Mistakes Lead to Early Deficit

Tennessee stranded four total runners in the first two innings, continuing their trend of struggling with runners on base. The Vols squandered a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the first inning of Saturday night’s contest and wasted back-to-back leadoff walks in the first inning of Sunday’s game, as the heart of Tennessee’s lineup all went down in order.

The Vols left two more on base in the second inning, as Maui Ahuna struck out to strand runners on the corners. 

Drew Beam was not his usual crisp self early in the contest, but he didn’t get much help from his defense. Beam gave up two hits in the first two innings, the first of which being a double that went over freshman Dylan Dreiling’s head, who was making his first career start at the position. 

In the third inning, Beam gave up a leadoff single that bounced in and out of Maui Ahuna’s glove. The hit was not ruled an error due to a 102 mph exit velocity, but Ahuna could’ve made the play.

Gonzaga scored their first run on a one-out RBI single from cleanup hitter Brian Kalmer, who advanced to second on the throw to third base to give the Zags runners on second and third. Five-hole hitter Tommy Eisenstat then popped up to foul territory at third base, but Zane Denton made a poor throw to home plate, allowing Gonzaga to score another. 

Tennessee’s Bats Catch Fire in Third

Tennessee was not trailing 0-2 to Gonzaga for long, as the Vols plated a whopping eight runs in the bottom of the third. 

After a Christian Moore leadoff single and back-to-back walks to Blake Burke and Zane Denton, Gonzaga went to the bullpen to bring in senior right-hander Ty Buckner to face Jared Dickey. 

The decision far from paid off for the Zags, as Jared Dickey sent a 3-2 pitch off the video board for Tennessee’s first grand slam of the season.

And unfortunately for Gonzaga, Dickey’s grand slam accounted for only half of Tennessee’s run in the inning. 

After a one-out walk from Griffin Merritt and a two-out Kyle Booker double, Maui Ahuna smoked a two-run double into right field to tack on two more runs. 

Ahuna was then brought home by Christian Moore, who crushed a two-run homer over the batter’s eye to extend Tennessee’s lead to eight runs. 

Tennessee’s eight-run third inning marked their third 5+ run inning of the weekend series, joining the six-run sixth inning on Friday and the five-run seventh inning on Saturday. 

Another trend of the weekend was Tennessee taking advantage of Gonzaga’s weak bullpen, as all three of the Vols’ big innings over the course of the weekend happened when the Bulldogs first went to their bullpen each day. 

More From RTI: Everything Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Clinched the Series Over Gonzaga

Tennessee’s Consistent Scoring Allows Bullpen to Struggle

Tennessee’s bullpen had its worst performance of the season, but the Vols’ offense 

Gonzaga scored four runs across the next four innings, but the Vols did a nice job of keeping a comfortable lead.

Gonzaga got a pair of one-out baserunners on second and third in the top of the fourth after a single and a double, and leadoff hitter Connor Coballes drove in a run with a sac fly. 

The Vols answered, though, in the bottom of the fourth as Griffin Merritt knocked a two-run homer into the Tennessee bullpen. Merritt’s home run marked his third of the season, Tennessee’s third of the game, and the Vols’ eighth of the series.

Drew Beam’s day was done in the fifth inning after a Maui Ahuna fielding error allowed the leadoff man on base. Beam had far from his best outing Sunday, but the Murfreesboro native did a good job avoiding disaster.

Tennessee brought junior righty Bryce Jenkins out of the bullpen first, who gave up a two-run home run to Brian Kalmer, allowing the Zags to cut Tennessee’s lead to 10-5. 

Jenkins prevented any further damage in the inning, retiring three straight to end the top half. 

The Vols added their 11th and 12 runs in the fifth and sixth innings with a pair of sac flies from Zane Denton and Maui Ahuna. 

Gonzaga added another in the top of the sixth with a solo homer from Kalmer against Tennessee junior reliever Andrew Lindsey. Kalmer’s blast marked his second of the game and third of the series. 

The Big Orange couldn’t do anything with a single in the seventh, but the Vols carried a comfortable 12-6 lead into the final two innings.

A two-out, two-run home run from nine-hole hitter Donovan Ratfield in the top of the eighth against Tennessee reliever Jake Fitzgibbons brought the Zags within four. However, the Vols’ offense answered again in the bottom of the eighth. 

Vols Pile It On in the Eighth

Tennessee loaded the bases with no outs for Maui Ahuna, who capitalized with an RBI groundout to score Tennessee’s 14th run of the game. Ahuna’s RBI marked his fourth of the game and fifth of the season in five games. 

The Vols added their 14th run off a balk, and Zane Denton added two more with a two-run triple to right center. 

Tennessee kept piling it on when pinch-hitter Christian Scott got his first RBI of the season, knocking a single into right field to score Denton. 

Sophomore left-hander Jacob Bimbi made his series debut in the ninth, retiring the side around a two-out solo homer.

Up Next

Tennessee will look to make it 12 wins in a row on Tuesday against Boston College. The Vols host the Eagles at 6:30 p.m. ET in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.   

Author: Ethan Moore