Vols Baseball Offense Catches Fire Late, Chase Burns Deals in Relief as Tennessee Advances to SEC Tournament Championship

Vols Baseball Offense Catches Fire Late, Chase Burns Deals in Relief as Tennessee Advances to SEC Tournament Championship thumbnail

HOOVER (Ala.) — Although Tennessee’s offense was as cold and sloppy as it had been throughout the tournament, Chase Burns was able to deal in relief to keep the Cats from taking the lead.

The tides turned in Tennessee’s favor though, as they do so often.

The Vols scored a remarkable ten runs in the eighth and ninth innings, to take a substantial 12-2 lead. They will now play Florida at 2 p.m. CT in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The Vols’ offensive power and the remarkable relief performance of

Burns powered Tennessee’s 52nd victory of the season. It also won the third tournament win in the same number.

Here is what happened.

Deja Vu for Jordan Beck

Last night against LSU, Jordan Beck got the Vols on the board first with a first-inning RBI triple, then scored on a wild pitch the very next pitch.

Jason Beck, a junior outfielder, hit a two-out triple down Hoover Met’s left-field line. Although it wasn’t an RBI, Beck was the Vol who provided a spark for the second consecutive night.

Then, the real deja vu began as Beck scored on a wild pitch the next pitch. The Vols were leading 1-0 heading into the bottom frame. Drew Beam, Tennessee’s freshman pitcher, would take the mound for his postseason debut.

Beam had to overcome some difficulties in the first. He gave up two one-out walks to give Kentucky the first two baserunners. The freshman quickly regained his composure and struck out Kentucky third baseman Chase Estep, as well as retiring shortstop Ryan Ritter. This left the Wildcat runners stranded.

Tennessee was down in order in the second. But Evan Russell’s flyout to end inning almost gave the senior his program-record 39th career homerun. Russell hit a rocket to left center that stopped at a warning track.

Beam was composed in the bottom frame. He struck out two batters before walking Devin Burkes, Kentucky’s best bat. The Lexington, Tennessee native is now 2-4 when it comes to catching runners at Hoover.

The Vols could not get going in the third. Cotto retired them in order for the second consecutive inning.

Beam looked great to start the bottom of the third. He retired his first two batters with a strikeout. Hunter Jump hit a single to center to make it Kentucky’s first hit. Daniel Harris IV then worked a two-out walk giving the Wildcats two baserunners. Estep almost slugged Beam in the next at-bat by catching a ball that was just foul in right field. Beam was able three pitches later to strike out the Wildcat third baseman to keep him safe. Beam had six strikeouts and had left four Wildcats stranded through three innings. Only one Vol had reached base in three innings, compared to Kentucky’s four. However, Jordan Beck, Tennessee’s baserunner, was the only one who made it home.

Kentucky Makes Pitching Change, Vols Extend Lead

Things started to pick back up in Hoover Met at the top of the fourth. After Jordan Beck had worked a walk, Drew Gilbert hit a hard-hit single to the first baseman. He struggled to control the bouncer. The single gave Tennessee two baserunners and allowed Nick Mingione the opportunity to go to the bullpen. The Wildcat’s first arm was Austin Strickland, a sophomore RHP. He gave up an RBI single for Trey Lipscomb, which brought home Beck from second. Strickland was able retire Ortega, Russell, and strand Lipscomb and Gilbert. But not before the Vols struck again to take a lead of two runs.

Chase Burns is First in Relief

In the bottom of the fourth, Ryan Ritter led off with a double before being moved to third on an Oraj Anu groundout, and Drew Beam’s day was done.

Vitello brought in rookie RHP Chase Burns to start the game. Vitello made the right decision, as Burns was most likely the favorite to start Sunday.

But, it was the right decision. Burns struck out two outs around a two out walk to strand runners in the corners and preserve Tennessee’s 2-0 lead. He also hit triple digits on his run.

Tennessee had left six Wildcats behind in four innings, but Beam and Burns managed to keep them out.

Kentucky Gets on the Board

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After an incredible fourth inning in relief, Burns was far from incredible in the fifth. The freshman gave up two back-to-back singles to allow Hunter Jump to score on Daniel Harris IV’s extra base hit. After Chase Estep fouled out to right, Harris IV would steal third. The Kentucky second baseman scored after Evan Russell allowed a third-strike pitch to get away from him.

Burns struck out Ryan Ritter, and the slider passed Russell to allow Harris IV score and tie the game.

Ritter stole second, but Burns kept him there and tied the game at two runs each by striking out Oraj Anu, Wildcats designated hitter.

Burns Bounces Back

Tennessee put two on in the top of the sixth after a leadoff infield single by Luc Lipcius and a two-out intentional walk to Trey Lipscomb, but Strickland stranded the pair of Vols by getting Jorel Ortega to line out right to the left fielder.

Burns threw together his first 1-2-3 innings in the bottom of the frame. He struck out Plastiak and Burkes after Fogel dribbled a groundout to shortstop.

Burns continued his sixth-inning success into the seventh. He retired the Cats in order and found his rhythm on the hill at Hoover Met.

Burns was crucial for the Volunteers as the bats couldn’t get going in the seventh. Cortland Lawson walked two batters, but Strickland retired pinch-hitters Blake Burke, Kyle Booker, and Evan Russell.

Vols Tack on Four Runs in the Eighth

In a marathon top of the eighth, the Vols found a way to break the tie and more.

The Vols loaded the bases with back to back singles by Luc Lipcius, Jordan Beck, and Trey Lipscomb. Jorel Ortega was next in the lineup with the bases full. The sophomore second baseman was plunked for a run.

Evan Russell struckout, but a wild pitch in Blake Burke’s at bat would score Beck and move Ortega to second and third.

After Burke had been intentionally walked, Cortland lawson added to Tennessee’s lead by scoring a two RBI double to left center to score Ortega and Lipscomb. Burke tried to score but was caught just before touching home plate to end this frame.

The Baseball Volunteers were able to force Kentucky to play their game for the first time in the entire game.

Jared Dickey Returns to Action, Burns Continues Amazing Relief Outing

Kentucky’s Ryan Ritter got on base in the bottom of the eighth with a one-out single that featured a throwing error by Jorel Ortega to allow the Wildcat shortstop to advance to second. Ritter stole third, but he was left stranded there like many Kentucky baserunners on Saturday night/early Sunday morning.

After Ritter’s outburst, Burns struck out two more batters to continue his elite relief effort.

Tennessee utilityman Jared Dickey officially returned to action in the ninth innings in a pinch-hit scenario, as Dickey was called up to bat for Kyle Booker.

And Dickey immediately hit a single to the left fielder on the second pitch in his at-bat.

The Vols won the ninth inning, dominating Kentucky’s relievers. They scored six runs thanks to a Drew Gilbert double, Trey Lipscomb sac fly, and a Blake Burke moonshot. Burke’s homer marked the 12th season for the freshman. The SEC Tournament-marked baseball flew well over the Hoover Met right-field wall.

The Burke homer was the final nail in the coffin for the Blue and White. Wyatt Evans sent it up north with three strikeouts of a ninth.

Up Next

The top-ranked BaseVols will take on seven-seed Florida in the SEC Tournament Championship at 2 p.m. CT in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Sunday. The broadcast will be carried by ESPN2.

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