The Vols utilized a pair of four-run innings in the fourth and fifth to blow this one wide open as Tennessee cruised to the 14-2 run-rule win over Eastern Kentucky on a Tuesday midweek on the walk off three-run homer run from Reese Chapman.
UT (23-10) plated the 14 runs off 11 hits in then ballgame while the Colonels (13-19) pushed across just two runs on four hits on the night. AJ Russell (1-0) picked up the victory on the mound after tossing a scoreless second as Tennessee used nine hurlers in the game. Rian Yates (0-1) is charged with the loss after yielding a pair of runs across three innings of work.
Tennessee picks up the victory prior to a monster Southeastern Conference series on the road at No. 5 Arkansas that’s set to begin this Friday. But before that, what are the four biggest takeaways from this one? We discuss.
Four-spot in the fourth, ran it back in the fifth
Tennessee was cruising right along with a one-run lead at 2-1 when some insurance was picked up in the fourth inning – and in a big way. Hunter Ensley walked and moved to third on a Maui Ahuna doubled to lead off the inning. Cal Stark drove in Ensley with a sac fly to centerfield. Logan Chambers walked to put two ducks on the pond for Christian Moore, who homered over the right-centerfield wall. The Vols plated four runs in the frame off two hits and took a commanding five-run lead at the time.
The Vols kept the foot on the pedal in the bottom of the fifth, plating four more runs off three hits to lead by eight runs at 10-2. Griffin Merritt stayed hot, homering over the left field wall to leadoff the frame. Zane Denton doubled (replaced by Jake Kendro on the base paths) and came around to score later on an RBI groundout by Maui Ahuna. Cal Stark drove in Hunter Ensley, who walked previously, on a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field and then Logan Chambers sent a solo shot to left field – his first home run of the season.
Griffin Merritt stays hot
What a turn of events for the Tennessee outfielder. A week ago, the former Cincinnati Bearcat was benched while in the middle of a horrible slump. He was hitless in his last 20 at-bats before picking up a pinch-hit RBI single in Friday’s game two loss to Florida. Merritt then went off on Saturday with a pair of home runs and 6 RBI. On Tuesday, the cleanup hitter homered again, leading off the fifth inning with his 10th long ball of the season. Merritt finished the outing going 1-for-2 with the home run, RBI and run scored at the plate. Tennessee needs that right-handed power bat in the heart of the order, so it’s great to see Merritt turning things around.
Chicks dig the long ball
Tennessee tallied five home runs Tuesday night in the run-rule victory over the Colonels. It’s the 11th time this season the Vols recorded three home runs or more in a single ballgame. The bats tied for a program-record seven home runs on March 10 against Morehead State and tonight’s five was second-most on the season.
Blake Burke logged his 12th home run of the year with a solo blast in the first. Moore three-run homer in the fourth was hi sixth round-tripper of the season. Merritt’s third home run in his past five at-bats [at the time] was his 10th long ball of the season as the solo blast in the fifth handed UT a two-run lead. And then Logan Chambers and Reese Chapman notched their first-career home runs later in the contest with the latter’s being a three-run walk off winner.
Another gem from Johnny Wholestaff
Nine Tennessee pitchers combined to toss seven two-run frames for the Volunteers in the easy midweek victory. AJ Russell picked up his first-career win on the mound after tossing a scoreless second inning with two strikeouts. Zander Sechrist started the ballgame and surrendered a solo hoe run in the first while Zach Joyce also allowed a run. Other than that, it was zeros across the board as Jacob Bimbi, Aaron Combs, Kirby Connell, Seth Halvorsen, Jake Fitzgibbons and Andrew Behnke combined with the aforementioned to pitch the gem.
It today, the Volunteer staff combined to strike out 13 batters and walk none while allowing just four hits on the night with just one extra-base hit.