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Tennessee Puts College Baseball On Notice After Weekend Sweep Of Former No. 1 Ole Miss

Tennessee (23-1, 6-0) came into this weekend looking to make a statement, but few knew it would be so loud.

If you were thinking that the Tennessee baseball team’s non-conference results might’ve been a bit of fool’s gold, you were wrong. The Vols put that notion to bed last weekend in a massive three-game series sweep against the No. 1-ranked Rebels in Oxford.

Now, they are No. 1.

They produced tremendous offense and fantastic pitching all weekend, from the starters to the bullpen. Chase Burns kicked it off with 11 strikeouts on Friday night, while the offense produced 12 runs in the win, and Chase Dollander got the win on Saturday.

Head coach Tony Vitello discussed the rotation following the series sweep on Sunday.

“I think it’s going to be a staple for as long as were all here because of (pitching coach) Coach Anderson. But each guy kinda got a little better in certain areas. That’s what you want. You want to keep improving, you like the win, so everybody’s building confidence and happy, especially on the way home. But you’re in this whole thing to challenge yourself and see how good you can get. Those guys, they are young guys. To improve and at the same time win is a great combination, but if you keep improving, you’re gonna keep winning anyhow.”

There’s nothing like playing the villain, and Tony Vitello lets his team fully embrace that role, especially on the road.

Ole Miss set the stage for a fierce competition. On Friday night, Lane Kiffin trotted out to the pitcher’s mound to throw out the first pitch. Rather than use a baseball, the Ole Miss football coach used a yellow golf ball that landed at his feet during the wild football game last season at Neyland Stadium. Though it was pretty on par for Kiffin, the baseball team didn’t follow through with any swagger. Tennessee dominated the Rebels Friday night.

Ole Miss pitcher Dylan DeLucia also didn’t help matters when he gave the Vols even more motivation for Saturday’s game with his postgame comments postgame Friday night.

“We took (Tennessee) lightly. It won’t happen again. We will win tomorrow, I’ll tell you that it’s one of those things where they play in a small field. We have a bigger field, so we thought we could throw it in to them. It didn’t work out. We missed some spots, and that’s why they ended up hitting the homers. Tomorrow will be a lot better,” DeLucia promised.

Tennessee won 10-3 on Saturday and made him eat his words. Chase Dollander struck out ten batters in 6.1 innings, six different hitters had multiple hits, and the Vols recorded their seventh straight SEC road series win, dating back to 2019. Tony Vitello and the boys have also started 5-0 in conference play for the first time since 1966.

The game on Sunday afternoon was slightly closer, though the Vols emerged victorious, 4-3.

We could talk about the hitting of Drew Gilbert, Evan Russell, Trey Lipscomb, Luc Lipcius, Jared Dickey, Cortland Sutton and the rest of this team all week long. But the main thing that we’ve seen so far this season is their willingness to get outside their comfort zone in the batter’s box. Add on the fact that this team has a knack for hitting homers, and you’ve got a squad that looks very dangerous right now.

Not only does this team cause chaos on offense with a barrage of home runs and hits all over the field, but they have an ace in the hole, Blade Tidwell, who is practically begging Tony Vitello to make his season debut. A lot of folks thought the season could be a wash for Tidwell after a shoulder injury, but it looks as though he’ll make his debut this week.

“It would be nice to get him some activity,” Vitello said. “I think we want to define which day it is. You’d like for it to kinda suit for what we’re looking for and also with kind of how he prepares as a starter. It doesn’t have to be a rush situation. I’d like to think — and I hate guaranteeing — he’ll get an inning this week.

“I know he felt good down there (bullpen), told him to go down there and I think he was shocked and then he ran about as fast as any of our track & field athletes can do,” Vitello added. “So, it’s about time, so I am tired of giving text messages that are basically death threats from the kid.”

You thought this team was playing good right now? Wait till they add another ace to an already full deck.

Written by Trey Wallace

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