The No.15 Tennessee Vols keep on cruising. And it’s the young and inexperienced arms that are impressing the most. Eleven Tennessee pitchers were called upon over opening weekend. Six names got credit for multiple innings of work. Only one – redshirt junior Ben Joyce – completed less than a frame. Joyce threw just two pitches in the top of the 7th inning on Sunday before inducing a ground ball out. The Farragut product hit triple digits on the radar gun in short work.
- Joyce wasn’t the only one in orange flashing impressive fastballs against Georgia Southern. The Vols had at least three other pitchers register 95 mph or above – Chase Burns (freshman), Chase Dollander (sophomore) and Drew Beam (freshman).
- Dollander surrendered the only three runs of the series in the top of the 6th on Saturday.
- The Vol newcomer otherwise shined in his debut, striking out 11 Eagles while walking zero on 84 pitches. A 2-hit sequence, followed by a well-placed bunt, put the Tennessee defense in a jam – ultimately retiring Dollander in what was a scoreless game up to that point.
- The freshman Burns cruised on Opening Day. The new Vol from Gallatin went five innings on 70 pitches. Burns struck out five and walked just one in his 2-hit shutout performance.
- Senior Ethan Smith made his Volunteer debut as well. The transfer from Vanderbilt was credited for the Saturday win started by Dollander. Despite giving up three hits in one inning of service, Smith struck out a batter and got help from his defense. Junior Jordan Beck turned Jesse Sherill’s slap to right field into a putout at home. Super senior Evan Russell also gunned a runner down at second from behind the dish in the inning.
Vols’ Midweek Performance
After play was suspended against Tennessee Tech on Tuesday, the Tennessee pitching staff kept pouring efficiency out of the bullpen the next day. It was UNC-Asheville’s turn to feel the wrath of up-and-coming arms the Vols had to employ.
- Seven Volunteers worked the Bulldog hitters to the tune of one run on four hits.
- Three freshman made their Tennessee debut – Wyatt Evans, Gavin Brasosky and Grant Cherry.
- Junior Mark McLaughlin made his first appearance of the season, allowing a solo shot in the ninth inning.
- Sophomore Jake Fitzgibbons threw eight strikes on 11 pitches. It was the lefty’s second appearance of the season.
- Joyce stole the show, in what would otherwise have been a snoozer of a game for media and fans. The righty upped his performance from the weekend, dealing fastballs consistently over 100 mph. One registered 103 mph. Despite working just an inning, the Walters State transfer was impressive. Out of the 15 pitches Joyce threw, 12 were strikes. He even dropped in a 90 mph changeup.
- Sophomore Zander Sechrist started the game and got credit for the win. The lefty was also impressive, drawing praise from social media. Sechrist threw 34 strikes on 47 pitches in three innings of work. He struck out seven, while allowing just one walk.
A look at Iona
The explosive trend should continue for the Vols, both at the plate and on the mound. For a team picked to finish in the middle of the MAAC pack, the Iona Gaels look way behind schedule.
- The Gaels are off to an 0-3 start, losing 65 of their last 85 games.
- Senior Jake Field has collected five hits so far this season, totaling nine bases. The rest of the Iona squad has seven total bases combined.
- Tennessee’s pitching staff will be up against arguably their weakest competition yet. The Iona arms are posting a 13.50 ERA after three games against Old Dominion – a team picked to finish third in C-USA
- Expect the same trio of weekend starters for the Vols. A dose of Burns, Dollander and Beam should open the door for more opportunity for the young arms to continue getting work. The back of the Tennessee pen should be busy again, and for good reason.