It was a second-year player, with just 10 career starts, who lifted No. 16 Tennessee to a season-opening road victory against Georgia Southern on Friday night.
Sophomore Jordan Beck got the party started for the Vols with a 2-run double in the top of the first inning.
“Jordan was outstanding. He didn’t even get all of the ball in the first inning. But it was a very competitive at-bat,” Tennessee head coach, Tony Vitello, said.
Junior Max Ferguson walked to open the game, then reached second base on a passed ball. Transfer-senior, Liam Spence, advanced Ferguson to third on an infield single. Beck’s line drive to left field drove the runners in. From that point, the Volunteers never relinquished the lead.
A Hot Start
The Vols’ offense worked Eagles junior, Josh Jackson, for 45 pitches in the opening slate. Jackson, brother of former Tennessee outfielder, Vincent Jackson, left the game with a 4-0 deficit and a runner on base in the top of the third inning.
Senior Chad Dallas followed the hot offensive start by retiring the first three Georgia Southern batters via strikeout. Dallas took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, where he gave up a solo home run and single.
Saved By Beck and the Pen
Seniors Sean Hunley and Redmond Walsh closed things out for Tennessee. Hunley threw 1.2 IP, giving up one earned run and collecting three strikeouts. Walsh needed just eight pitches to retire three batters in the final inning. The redshirt senior picked up his 12th career save on Friday night. Walsh has a 1.30 career ERA, averaging one strikeout per inning.
It was Beck who put the Vols up 5-0 with a solo home run in the fifth inning. The outfielder’s two hits proved to be the difference in the game. Beck’s 3 RBI gave the Vols enough insurance to work with in the latter half of the contest.
“The ball (Beck) hit over the fence was incredible. Obviously he’s strong, but he was facing a guy that stuck it on us pretty good, in long or middle-relief, and Jordan was able to take advantage there. It was a huge run on the scoreboard,” Vitello said.
The pesky pitcher Vitello is referring to is senior Tyler Owens. The Eagles’ hurler struck out 10 batters in 4.1 innings of relief.
Georgia Southern rallied for three runs in the seventh inning, but that surge was quickly halted by Hunley and Walsh. Thanks to the early boost from Beck, the Volunteers were able thwart off a comeback attempt on the road.
The Tennessee victory snapped a 7-game winning streak for the Eagles. The wealthy stretch for Southern includes three wins over Georgia, where the Eagles outscored the SEC foe 13-4 in 2020.
What’s Next for the Vols
The Vols play the second tilt of a three-game series with Georgia Southern on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Freshman Blade Tidwell is scheduled to get the start for the Vols.
Quotes made available from UT Athletic Communications.