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Baseball Preview: Tennessee

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The Tigers are streaking, but they’re headed to Knoxville to face the best team in all of the land

Shriners Children’s College Classic Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Tennessee baseball is damn good, there’s no other way to put it. If I had to sum up the Volunteers in a sentence, I’d simply say, “They throw gas, and they hit bombs.” On the year the Vols sit at 28-1 and their 9-0 in the SEC with their only loss coming to an extremely talented Texas team. They’re coming off a sweep of Vanderbilt in Nashville last weekend and they’re going to take no prisoners against the Tigers this weekend. So what’s led to the Volunteers success this season? Let’s break it down.

Pitching

Remember when I said that Tennessee had arms that throw gas? Yea well get ready for Friday night cause it’s coming in hot. Well, Chase Burns gets things going on Friday night, and you can expect mid-to-high 90s all night long from the Tennessee Ace. Burns has a 1.15 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 52 Ks in 39 innings, and in case you were wondering, he’s only a freshman. Burns’ best start of the year came against Ole Miss two weekends ago. The Rebels were ranked No. 1 at the time, and Burns walked into Oxford and delivered 7 innings and 11 Ks while allowing just 1 ER.

If you’re not already blown away by Burns’ number this year, let’s talk about his stuff. Aside from being able to absolutely mow down hitters with his fastball, Burns also has a great slider. He throws a couple variations of it, one that resembles more of a cutter, and one that’s a true slider, but both are incredibly hard to hit. Between the big fastball and the elite slider, Burns is a surefire 1st round draft pick when he becomes eligible and the Tigers will be lucky to manage anything against him.

Good luck hitting this:

If you think it’s going to get any easier for the Tigers as the weekend goes on, you’re very wrong. Chase Burns will turn it over to Chase Dollander on Saturday, and Dollander is just as intimidating. Like Burns, Dollander has a big fastball and a good slider, and he’s having a great year so far with a 2.58 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and 60 Ks in 38.1 innings. Four times this year, he’s had double digit strikeouts, and in his last two starts, he’s pitching 14.1 innings with 16 Ks and just 2 ER against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.

Dollander will lean on his mid-to-high 90s fastball, but his aforementioned slider is very good, and he will mix in his changeup a little more than Burns will. However, if he continues to pitch like he has in his past two starts, I’d say the Tigers have only a minuscule chance to rough him up.

If you like big fastballs, you’ll like this. How’s 99 at the belt sound?

On Sunday, the Tigers will see Drew Beam who is having the most statistically amazing season I can remember by a freshman in some time. On the year, Beam has a 0.88 ERA, 0.46 WHIP, and 29 Ks in 41 innings, and he’s coming off his best start of the year. Just last weekend, Beam threw a complete game shutout allowing just 2 hits against Vanderbilt in Nashville, and the week prior he provided 7.1 innings of 1 ER ball.

Beam doesn’t have as big of a fastball as his Friday and Saturday counterparts, he’ll still hang around 93 mph with his fastball, and it has great late life. While his fastball may be his best pitch, Beam has a good breaking pitches and a serviceable changeup. With the roll he’s on, it could be three straight days of rough ABs for the Tigers.

Here’s a look at all of Beam’s nasty pitches:

While Tennessee’s weekend rotation is filthy, it doesn’t stop there. The Volunteer bullpen is full of great arms, so I’ll point out a couple to look for this weekend. Redmond Walsh is one of the few Volunteer pitchers who doesn’t light up radar guns, but the crafty lefty is the Tennessee closer, and has a 0.69 ERA and more appearances than any other reliever on the staff.

The anti-Walsh is flamethrower Ben Joyce. He’s made headlines across the country for his 104 MPH fastball, but he also has a really filthy slider, and has a staggering 0.00 ERA this season.

This is quite literally uhittable:

Here’s what the rest of the Volunteer pitchers have done this year:

via utsports.com

Hitting

Narrowing down the Tennessee lineup to just three big bats to watch out for is almost impossible. As a team they have an OPS that approaches 1.100 (yes you read that right), and they hit .324. Multiple players are hitting .400 for the Volunteers, and they average over 10 runs per game including 27 and 29 run outbursts.

Trey Lipscomb is the leader of the explosive Volunteer offense. He’s slashing .374/.444/.822 while adding 11 HR and 48 RBI. In a game earlier this year, he went 5-5, hit for the cycle, and drove in 9 runs. He hits smack dab in the middle of Tony Vitello’s lineup, and honestly, I don’t know how you get him out. Pray?

Lipscomb is aggressive and will often jump on the first pitch he sees, and he takes it to all fields with his simple, compact swing. As far as college hitters go, he’s in the upper echelon.

Here’s a look at his quick bat leaving the yard:

In the cleanup spot for Tennessee you’ll find Drew Gilbert and his .446/.557/.815 slashline. The Junior CF has a hit in all but two of the Volunteers games this year, and he’s also added 3 HR and 31 RBI. Hitting in front of Lipscomb most often, Gilbert sees plenty of pitches to hit, and he takes advantage of that situation.

The smooth swinging lefty has great speed as well as an elite bat, and has shown major improvement this year in his ability to use all fields. In previous seasons he’d had a dependence on pulling the baseball, but he’s made changes, and they’re paying dividends this season.

For reference of just how good this kid’s swing is, I don’t think this ball has landed yet:

Everyone in this lineup can hit, but for the sake of this preview not being a dissertation, the final player I’ll single out is Jordan Beck. Beck, a Junior OF like Gilbert, hits third for the Volunteers, and is slashing .330/.386/.565 with 6 HR and 20 RBI. Amongst the rest of the Tennessee lineup, those numbers might not stand out, but on any other team they’d be jawdropping.

Nevertheless, Beck is this team’s 3-hole for a reason, the kid can hit. He like many of his Volunteer teammates is an aggressive swinger early in counts, and doesn’t have many flaws in his approach. He could improve his patience at the plate to walk more and strikeout less, but when you’re slugging .565 it’s hard to really complain.

Here’s Beck unloading on a ball:

Game Schedule

Friday | 5:30 pm | SEC Network +

Saturday | 6 pm | SEC Network

Sunday | 11:30 pm | SEC Network +