With an in-state opponent invading Knoxville, the Volunteers looked to dispel their sister university Tuesday night. The Volunteers shut out the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks 9-0 in the first game of a two-game midweek series.
The Volunteers thrived on the mound. Freshman pitcher Sean Hunley started for Tennessee, dominating in the eighth start of his young career. Hunley finished the game with a career-high 11 strikeouts and only allowed four hits on the night. With the win, he keeps his perfect 6-0 record alive this season.
“My first couple of innings were a little slower. My fastball command wasn’t there the first two innings,” Hunley said. “I feel like my slider was working, so I used that most of the time.”
Work they did. Hunley’s 11 strikeouts marked the most by a Tennessee pitcher since 2015.
The Vols had five players with a multi-hit game against the Skyhawks. The Vols garnered 14 total hits as a team. Tennessee’s offense came to life after a mediocre series against Florida last weekend.
Sophomore outfielder Justin Ammons led the way for the Vols in hitting, going 3-of-5 on the night. Ammons scored one run on the night and drove an RBI. Freshman Evan Russell continued his hot streak and scored three runs for Tennessee, which led the team.
Stellar pitching and a relentless defense helped the Volunteers to defeat UT-Martin. Senior outfielder Brodie Leftridge dove for an incredible catch early in the game to stop a run from scoring. Combined with a stellar appearance by Hunley, Tennessee remained focused and ready to take home a win from the start.
Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello commented about Leftridge’s catch, which set the tone for the rest of the game.
“It really does (set the tone). He and some of the other guys really got after it well in pregame and I think it was carryover,” Vitello said. “I’m kind of a firm believer in how you prepare is kind of reflected in the game.”
Leftridge added, “I kind of took a bad route to it but I made up for it and got to it.”
Eight of the Vols’ nine runs came in innings four through seven, as sophomore Andre Lipcius topped off Tennessee’s big day with an RBI double in the seventh inning. Catcher Benito Santiago tallied a pair of doubles in the win on Tuesday, boosting his batting average to a team-high .390 in non-conference matchups this season.
Game two of the series is set for 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday afternoon and will be televised on the SEC network.
Written by Cole McCormick
Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics