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OTH On Deck: Tennessee Baseball Bounces Back, Sweeps Vanderbilt

Via UT Athletics
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A Tennessee baseball team we haven’t seen this year is finally showing up. In a dominant sweep of Vanderbilt and then a 19-1 midweek win over the Bellarmine Knights, the Vols showed signs of the 2022 team. 

Tennessee outscored Vanderbilt 31-9 on the way to the sweep. Following a four-game losing streak and a bad loss to Tennesee Tech, the Vols responded.

They are not done yet. Here are some takeaways, a look at the postseason picture and a scouting report of Mississippi State. 

Closer Chase Burns 

Normally a Saturday starter for the Vols, Burn struggled early through the SEC slate. In need of a reset, he moved to the bullpen. 

It worked. Burns came out of the pen Friday night to close out Vanderbilt and give Tenessee an opportunity to walk off the Commodores. 

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Burns went three innings and gave up one hit and struck out seven. He was popping triple digits out of the pen, showing a lot of emotion on the mound. Burns also came in on Sunday to put Vanderbilt away. 

Andrew Lindsey looked really good on Friday night, going 6.2 innings and giving up six hits and three runs. Dollander and Beam have gotten more consistent on Saturday and Sunday, so there is no reason for Burns to move from the pen. 

Having a guy like Burns in the backend of the bullpen is a weapon for Tennessee to utilize down the stretch. 

Tennessee Baseballis back

Tennessee’s bats came alive against Vanderbilt, resembling signs of the 2022 team. The Vols cranked nine home runs and scored 31 runs over the weekend, more than any other SEC series. 

Griffin Merritt was the hero on Friday night, throwing a runner out from right field and hitting the walk-off homerun after coming in late in the game. It is no surprise that Merritt had the power, but he had disappeared recently. He broke out of his slump against the Commodores. 

Merritt didn’t play on Saturday, but went 2-for-5 on Sunday with three RBIs. 

Postseason picture

Last week, the postseason picture wasn’t great. It looks a lot better now. 

The “magic number” for Ole Miss last year and Tennessee in 2021 was 14 SEC wins. The Vols do seem like a lock for Hoover now, picking up a three-game lead over Missouri. 

If Tennessee goes .500 in SEC play the rest of the way, they should be able to sneak into the postseason. To host a regional though, they would likely have to better that .500 mark and have a good run in Hoover. 

D1Baseball’s Mark Etheridge puts the Vols as a No. 2 seed right now. The road gets easier though, and the postseason seems to be more in play. 

A look at Mississippi State 

The Bulldogs are struggling. They sit at just 6-10 in SEC play. Mississippi State has a team ERA of 6.22 and its pitching staff has been a clear weakness this season. 

Offensively, the Bulldogs haven’t been that bad. They sit at No. 5 in the SEC, hitting just under .300. Mississippi State has walked 246 times this season, putting them at third in the SEC.

Interestingly, the Bulldogs pick off the most runners in the SEC as well. If Tennessee can throw strikes and limit the dumb mistakes (like they did against Vanderbilt) then they should have success. 

A series sweep here would go a long ways for the postseason. 

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