No. 19 Tennessee remained unscathed in the loss column against UNC Asheville with a 12-1 win on Tuesday. The Vols showed out on the rainy midweek day and pushed their record to 9-0 on the season.
Freshman right-hander Mark McLaughlin earned his first career win in the game after coming in relief of starter Jackson Leath in the second inning. McLaughlin tossed five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five bulldogs. Tennessee used five different pitchers in the game.
In the second inning, junior outfielder Alerick Soularie got the offense going with a solo home run over the left field wall. It was the first homer of the season for the preseason All-SEC and All American player.
The Vols poured on runs later in the game, including five runs in the sixth inning and four in the seventh.
“Almost everybody can run pretty well and everyone is pretty physical,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said following the win. “[They] have the ability to drive the ball.”
Tennessee hit three home runs against UNC Asheville and pushed their team total to 16 home runs in just nine games.
Vitello commented on the work that freshman have done so far this season, saying that they have gotten opportunities and have made the most of them thus far. Additionally, Vitello said that his players are motivated to play well because there is not a lot of time.
“This is 56 games and it’s a sprint. It’s not a big league season where it is a marathon,” he said.
Junior outfielder Evan Russell hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning, his first of the season. Russell’s homer scored two of the nine runs the Vols would score in the sixth and seventh inning combined.
“We have an offense that, once it gets going, is hard to stop,” Russell said. “Later in the game, whenever it does [get going], it’s like a snowball effect.”
He also mentioned that some players are starting to get in a rhythm, which makes the Tennessee offense dangerous.
Tennessee begins a weekend series against George Washington University on Feb. 28. They will look to continue their early season success against non-conference opponents.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ciera Noe
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Baseball Twitter (@vol_baseball)