Tennessee Uses Hot Start to Earn Series-Opening Victory Over Aggies

Tennessee Uses Hot Start to Earn Series-Opening Victory Over Aggies

Chase Dollander//Photo via Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Tennessee baseball used a red-hot start to power past Texas A&M, 10-4, in a series-opening win Friday night in Knoxville. 

The Vols plated five runs in the first inning and a pair in the second inning to take a healthy, early lead. 

Starting pitcher Chase Dollander had a rocky start, allowing three runs in the first two innings. However, the Vols’ offensive explosion in the first two frames left little doubt that the Big Orange would earn a series-opening victory.

Here’s a handful of takeaways as Tennessee gets their first conference win in the SEC home opener.

Dollander Has Another Shaky First Inning

Chase Dollander had another shaky first inning, giving up two hits, two walks, and committed a balk that scored one of the Aggies’ pair of runs in the first frame. 

Dollander didn’t have any help to start, as three of his four balls against his first batter were strikes, according to trackman data. Still, the junior was far from his best out of the gate, a trend that’s continued every weekend this season. 

In addition to the balk, Dollander committed a pair of pitch-clock violations, one of which was ball four against his second batter.

The Aggies scored another run in the second inning on an RBI groundout to score the leadoff man in Jace LaViolette. LaViolette knocked a leadoff triple to right-field, where Kavares Tears misjudged the fly ball and dove well-short of the ball.

Early Offensive Explosion

Tennessee jumped all over Texas A&M starter Nathan Dettmer in the first and second innings, scoring seven runs on eight hits. 

The Vols offense wasted no time in the first as Maui Ahuna sliced a triple deep into left field and was brought home on an RBI groundout from Christian Moore. 

Blake Burke and Zane Denton then got on base with a hit-by-pitch and walk, respectively. Dickey was brought home on a Jared Dickey RBI single, then Dickey and Denton came home on a smoked two-run double by Kavares Tears. 

Tears was the final Vol to come home in the frame, as Hunter Ensley singled down the left-field line to score the redshirt freshman. 

The Vols’ pair of runs in the second inning came off a pair of RBI singles from Christian Moore and Zane Denton. 

Tennessee’s hot start offensively starkly contrasted the Vols’ performance at the plate last weekend against Missouri. Against the Tigers, the Vols scored a total of six runs in the entire series. In the first two innings against the Aggies, Tennessee scored seven runs.

Corner Outfielders Provide Elite Defense in the Third

Tennessee’s corner outfielders, Hunter Ensley and Kavares Tears, made a pair of elite defensive plays in the third to help Dollander face the minimum in the frame. 

Ensley sprinted toward a line drive hit deep to left-field and snared it as he crashed into the wall for out number one. One batter later, Tears made a circus catch in deep right-center on another hard-hit line drive. 

Tears dropped the ball when transferring the ball to his throwing hand, so the runner thought Tears didn’t make the catch. Thus, the runner was tagged out at second for a 9-6 double play.

Dollander Dominates Middle Innings 

Dollander bounced back after a shaky start to the game and dominated from the third inning until his day ended in the seventh. 

Including the third inning, Dollander retired 13 of his last 14 batters faced. The Georgia native added five of his eight strikeouts during that stretch, shutting down the Aggies as the Vols steadily added to their lead. 

The Vols tacked on two runs in the fifth thanks to a wild pitch and a Kavares Tears sac fly, giving Tears three RBIs on the night. 

Seth Halvorsen replaced Dollander on the mound with two gone in the seventh and impressively fielded a ground ball to end the inning. 

Heading into the seventh-inning stretch, Tennessee had logged three consecutive 1-2-3 innings.

Blake Burke Breaks Out of Slump

Tennessee’s best power hitter, Blake Burke, ended his slump on Friday night, smashing a solo leadoff homer over the scoreboard in the seventh. 

Burke’s monstrous 443-foot solo shot gave the Vols a 10-3 lead and ended a 0-14 stretch at the plate for the power-hitting sophomore. 

Burke’s long ball served as Tennessee’s first hit against Texas A&M relief pitcher Ty Sexton, who took over Dettmer in the top of the sixth.

Halvorsen Closes it Out

Halvorsen pitched the final 2.1 innings for the Volunteers. Although the junior gave up a run in the eighth, the former Missouri Tiger retired six of his eight batters faced as Tennessee coasted to a win.

Up Next

The Vols will look to win the series with a Saturday win over the Aggies. First pitch is at 12:30 p.m. ET. ESPN2 will have the broadcast.

Author: Ethan Moore