Tennessee blasts Evansville, Omaha is next

Marvin Westwestwords

In a classic example of what a difference a day makes, Tennessee got its act back together on June 9, 2024, battered Evansville, 12-1, and claimed its proper place in the College World Series.

The proud Volunteers, thoroughly embarrassed on Saturday, hit seven home runs in support of dominant pitching by Zander Sechrist. The enthusiastic crowd of 6,489 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium said thank you with thunderous applause. Bombs away is a fun show. Tennessee has hit 173.

Zander Sechrist salutes the fans who gave him a long and loud standing ovation when he left the game. The senior had pitched his final game at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Fans started the game cheering every strike. The pitching part was really different. Sechrist came through with an unforgettable performance, maybe his best ever, in a do-or-disaster situation. Relief work was flawless, as in hitless. Purple Aces never had a chance. This time, the deck was stacked.

Tennessee pitchers were bad or awful on Saturday. Evansville starter Kevin Reed didn’t fare very well on Sunday. He retired four Vols and gave up five runs.

Home-run leader Christian Moore was very different. He had two long-distance drives. Dalton Bargo, a native of Omaha, hit two. He’ll have a lot to talk about at homecoming.

Dean Curley hit a home run. Billy Amick got one that counted two. Cal Stark smashed a three-run home run. Enough already.

Evansville started the game with a hop-hop grounder. Curley, freshman shortstop, fumbled it. That and two singles led to an unearned run. Somebody in the visiting dugout was too loud in exclaiming “Here we go again!”

In fact, that was as far as the Aces went. In the bottom of the first, Moore hit the fourth pitch 426 feet, his 31st home run of the season, tie game, loud crowd.

In the second inning, Curley’s drive landed on the left-field porch. Bargo hit one out to right. Blake Burke and Amick batted in runs. The Vols were suddenly ahead 5-1.

Bargo and Moore delivered more home runs in the fourth inning. Amick hit a two-run homer. That made it 9-1. Stark finished the scoring.

Burke had four hits.

Coach Tony Vitello said “I get interviews and people chant my name because of guys like Blake Burke. All I do is put his name in the lineup.”

Vitello said Burke was bothered by a comment from somebody on Saturday, that if the Vols lost on Sunday, previous games were for nothing.

“Blake Burke wasn’t too happy about that. Blake Burke’s got a lot invested in this particular program.”

The issue sent the coach to the dictionary for an official definition of success.

“Webster says it is a degree or measure of accomplishment.”

The coach concluded his Vols have had some. They have a 55-12 record. He and others no doubt are hoping that will be enough to cover the one humiliating loss to Evansville and maybe even wash away the regional upset Notre Dame inflicted two years ago.

The coach was wound up. He said a lot of stuff.

Fans seemed to enjoy the 12-1 win over the Evansville Purple Aces. (Photo by Ian Cox/ Tennessee Athletics)

“Congrats to our fans for sure. I mean, they were cheering pickoff attempts. Definitely the loudest that it’s ever been in here.

“Congrats to our players. They’ve worked hard like everybody that’s left at this stage in the season.

“And obviously huge congrats to Evansville. Didn’t really know how to say it or show it or even describe how much respect we have for their program and this team in particular.”

Vitello talked about where he fits it.

“If you were to put all my decisions in a bucket for the weekend, I had more wrong decisions than correct decisions. For instance, Dalton Bargo probably should have pinch hit Saturday. He showed me that with some attitude and some success today … he wants to go home and he’s going home to Omaha.”

Free ride.

As for Vitello coaching success, he hasn’t had much in Omaha. He’s 1-4. That won’t matter too much this weekend. The Vols will open against Florida State. The Seminoles are 47-15. New tournament, eight teams, one prize.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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