Pitching, Home Runs Propel Tennessee to Win on Opening Day

Tennessee shut out Western Illinois and hit two home runs to win 3-0 on opening day.

Tennessee opened up their baseball season on Friday against Western Illinois with a 3-0 win in Knoxville. Two Tennessee pitchers combined to throw the shutout, only allowing two total hits to the Leathernecks.

Chad Dallas started on the mound for his first game in a Tennessee uniform. The sophomore transfer from Panola College in Texas gave up one hit in five innings pitched. Dallas struck out four Western Illinois batters and surrendered two walks on his 76 pitches, earning his first win of the season.

Dallas got off to a strong start, and he said that helped him settle in quickly. He tallied two of his four strikeouts in the first inning.

“The first two strikeouts were big,” Dallas said. “What was even bigger was the first pitch of the game was a strike, and that really calmed me down.”

Junior right-hander Sean Hunley pitched in relief and got his first save of the season. He needed just 50 pitches in four innings pitched, allowing one hit and striking out two batters with no walks.

Tennessee only had four hits in the game, but two of those were home runs. Their first runs of the season came in the second inning when Connor Pavolony hit a two-run shot to left field following a single by Evan Russell. It was Pavolony’s first swing of the at-bat on a
3-1 count.

Pavolony gave credit to Russell’s preceding at-bat for his home run. “Russell’s (at-bat) was the most important part of that. He left the pitcher fatigued and I got him down 3-1, then I did what I was supposed to,” he said. The sophomore catcher already has half his home run total from 2019.

The Vols’ third run came from another home run to lead off the eighth inning by shortstop Jake Rucker. His first career homer cleared the center field wall and gave Tennessee an insurance run late in the game.

Tennessee will go for the series win in game two on Feb. 15. First pitch is 2 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson stadium.

 

By Christian Knox and Ryan Sylvia

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Baseball Twitter (@Vol_Baseball)