Vols win, hit four home runs

Marvin Westwestwords

No. 1 Tennessee did exactly what it was supposed to do in the Knoxville Super Regional. It slugged four home runs and knocked off Evansville, 11-6.

The Purple Aces, some combination of pesky and courageous, fell behind but wouldn’t go away. They got even at 5-5 in the fifth inning and tried to launch a historic comeback in the ninth.

Game 2 is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday (6/8/24). One more Vol victory earns a spot in the College World Series. If Evansville wins and forces a third game, it would be Sunday at 6.

The Vols had more muscle in Game 1. Blake Burke, Christian Moore, Billy Amick and Hunter Ensley hit the home runs. Ensley’s three-run long ball in the seventh removed all doubt – if there really was any.

Evansville’s highly regarded freshman lefthander Kenton Deverman suffered his second loss of the season. He has won nine.

Burke got him in the first inning. His drive hit the scoreboard at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Aces answered in the second. Cal McGinnis walloped a two-run home run off Tennessee opener Chris Stamos. Coach Tony Vitello got the message and brought in pitcher A.J. Causey. He struck out eight in 4⅔ innings.

Tennessee went up 3-2 on Moore’s two-run homer. Amick made it 4-2. A sacrifice fly added one. An error by Moore led to three unearned Evansville runs. The 5-5 tie didn’t last long. The Vols scored three in the bottom of the fifth.

The flurry by the Aces in the ninth inning was a tease. They got three hits and a run off reliever Kirby Connell. Aaron Combs was called to the rescue. A walk loaded the bases. Combs struck out three in a row.

“Beautiful day at the ballpark with a great crowd and the sun shining,” said Vitello.

The coach said the wind was changing all afternoon “but what didn’t change was the competitiveness and exactly what we thought was going to happen happened.”

Vitello said things could have gone either of two ways: “You could try and do too much or you could stay true to who you are.”

The Vols were efficient. They left only one runner on base. That means they hit when it mattered most, including with two outs.

Vitello was not surprised that the Aces were still trying when six runs behind in the ninth inning. He saw enough in the Evansville-East Carolina game on Monday to know this foe is determined.

“We knew it was going to be hell, and it’ll be like that tomorrow.”

Vitello said if this series goes to Sunday, that game will be tough, too.


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