Best-laid plans of mice and men …

Marvin Westwestwords

Do you think the NCAA baseball committee knows a story when it sees one?

Wake Forest, with ex-Vol Chase Burns as a pitching ace, just happened to be lined up to go against Tennessee if both teams made it to the super regional.

Alas and alas, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

The Vols followed the script but the Demon Deacons got tangled up. They scored five runs in the top of the ninth to take a two-run lead over East Carolina but gave up three in the bottom of the inning and lost 7-6.

Oh my.

That was more than enough for ECU. It lost to Evansville and that delivered the Purple Aces to Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The best-of-three series starts Friday (6/7/24) at 3 p.m. Game 2 will be Saturday at 11 a.m. If there is a Game 3, it will be Sunday evening.

Chase Burns as a Vol

Chase Burns will probably be somewhere watching on ESPN2. The Knoxville winner advances to the College World Series.

Burns grew up in Gallatin. As a Tennessee freshman, he threw 101 mph, went 8-2 with an earned run average of 2.91 and had 103 strikeouts in 81 innings.

Burns was not the same midway through his sophomore season – 2-3 with a 6.10 ERA. Tony Vitello moved him to the bullpen. Chase made the next move, to the transfer portal and then to the Forest.

“Chase moves on as the No. 1 prospect in the country in his class,” said Vitello. “He was one of the most popular players with the way he pitched for us in critical situations out of the bullpen.”

Tennessee could have used him this season. He was very good at Wake Forest.

Evansville has a very good pitcher, left-hander Kenton Deverman, Missouri Valley Conference freshman of the year, 9-1 record with a 3.81 ERA.

The Aces are a veteran team. It will be interesting to see if they can ignore the Tennessee crowd. Vol fans join in the game. They sound exactly like home-field advantage.

Indeed, the Vols are 38-3 at home. That may mean all of America and maybe Memphis, too, will be pulling for underdog Evansville.

The NCAA pretends regional games are at neutral sites and allows visitors to sometimes bat last, but there’s nothing equal about the UT stadium when the Vols get going. It is loud. There are added distractions. Last weekend, former basketball star John Fulkerson was on the left-field porch waving a flag twice as big as he is.

If the Aces win, they’ll probably deserve it.

The Vols have big-time power. They set a season record with 159 home runs. Christian Moore is the leader with 29. Billy Amick has 21. Dylan Dreiling has 19 and Kavares Tears 18. Blake Burke has 17. Dean Curley has 11.

Vitello says his guys are big and strong.

The previous record of 158 belonged to the 2022 team. The Vols of last year hit only 126. Next best was 97 home runs in 1998.

The college record is 188 by LSU in 1997. That was the year pitchers accused the NCAA of permitting more dangerous than usual metal bats to attract bigger crowds.

The rest of us know the NCAA would never stoop so low.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is

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