Just like with any pizza pie missing a sprinkle of cheese, the No.14 Tennessee Volunteers (11-3) seem quite different without a vital component that holds everything together.
According to utsports.com, that main ingredient returns this weekend to bolster the recipe.
After missing a Friday start last weekend, junior Chad “Cheese” Dallas is back in the Vols’ lineup. The junior was unable to go against Georgia State due to oblique soreness.
Tennessee is already down All-American Jackson Leath (hamstring) for an indefinite time. These injuries have caused the Volunteers to extend deep into the pen and create surprise appearances. The results have been mixed.
Senior Wil Helfin filled in for Dallas, working seven innings and allowing just one run against the Panthers. Sixty-seven of Heflin’s 99 pitches were strikes. The senior helped guide Tennessee to an impressive 6-1 victory over a team that previously knocked off three ranked opponents.
The weekend went well for the Vols as freshman Blade Tidwell and junior Elijah Pleasants recorded wins to cap off a series sweep. Heflin then opened the following midweek game at Charlotte, as Tennessee implemented a staff day for the pitchers.
It was after Heflin’s one inning of service where the Vols started to crumble. Down 3-0 in the 7th inning, 49ers’ Will Butcher homered off of sophomore Christian Delashmit that sparked more offense for Charlotte. The Niners went on to win 9-0.
More Cheese, Please!
Tennessee is back at home awaiting a hot UNC Greensboro team (10-2) that is coming off of a 23-run, shutout performance over North Carolina A&T. The Spartans have a top-15 win on their resume thanks to beating then-ranked No.12 North Carolina State. UNCG also beat Charlotte 9-7 on March 2.
The return of Dallas is critical to the Vols’ vitality in the pen. Despite good performances from the likes of Heflin, Tidwell, and Pleasants, the shift of scheduled outings and impromptu starts have jaded what’s otherwise been a stellar pitching staff.
Since Heflin’s spot start against GSU, he and the weekend starters have combined for 19 SO and two walks in 16.1 IP.
With Dallas back, all the other elements in the pen should hold firm. The junior is undefeated in six career starts for the Vols and has yet to go less than 4.1 innings in those appearances. His presence alone should bode well for Tennessee.
Who knows? Friday’s performance may come with extra cheese.