Tennessee baseball followed up its slow start with a seven game win streak. With another game against Charleston Southern.
So, lets open the notebook after a weekend sweep of Dayton, and the appearance of a much anticipated shortstop.
Tony Vitello returns, Maui Ahuna makes debut
Tennessee’s head man returned from a three game suspension to coach against Charleston Southern on Tuesday. The Vols and acting head coach Josh Elander survived and suceeded.
Tennessee swept Dayton, and beat Charleston Southern easily on Tuesday with Vitello in the dugout. The reason for his suspension? Vitello confirmed he took a suspension for Ahuna to become eligible.
News came out Monday that the NCAA has cleared Ahuna to play for Tennessee. In his debut, the transfer from Kansas went 1-for-4 while hitting sixth for the Vols. His first at-bat saw him almost hit a ball out, but the wind knocked it down.
He eventually got his first hit and flashed the leather a couple of times. Likely a confidence booster, it will be fun to watch Ahuna moving forward.
Tennessee pitching continues to impress
The Vols’ starting rotation gained most of the preseason hype, but it has been the bullpen that has been flexed early.
Before Tuesday’s matchup with Charleston Southern, Tennessee’s starters had a combine 1.72 ERA in 36.2 innings pitched. That mark led the SEC.
Over the same time frame, the Vols’ bullpen posted a 0.59 ERA in 30.1 innings pitched, also leading the SEC. Tennessee’s bullpen only gave up 2 earned runs before Tuesday. The bullpen gave up one run against Charleston Southern on Tuesday.
Struggles with runners on base
Tennessee had no issues getting runners on against Dayton over the weekend. The Vols scored 22 runs on the weekend.
While it may seem nitpicky, the Vols failed with runners on base. Tennessee left 24 runners on base over the weekend. Against Dayton, that doesn’t seem like a big deal.
Leaving that many on against Dayton is an issue in its own right. Tennessee should have no trouble hitting mid-major pitchers. When the Vols get to SEC play, it will be paramount that they convert with runners on.
Likely, the offense will get hot and this won’t be an issue.
A good thing for Tennesssee, the Vols have too many options in the outfield.
Kyle Booker has struggled early this season, but he tallied a hit on Tuesday night against Charleston Southern. Booker was swinging just .176 with seven strikeouts going into Tuesday.
Jared Dickey and Griffin Merritt aren’t moving from the corner spots, but who will play centerfield? Booker is likely the best defensive option.
Tennessee also has talented freshman, like Dylan Dreiling, and highly touted reserves, like Kavares Tears, who are fighting for a spot in the outfield. It will be interesting to see how many more chances Booker gets before Vitello pulls the plug.