In seven games this season, the Vols had not played a close game for a full nine innings. That changed on Tuesday as No. 17 Tennessee edged out a 4-1 win against ETSU at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Tuesday was a step up in competition for Tennessee, as the Vols’ average margin of victory was 15.7 runs in the young season. It was the most stressful game for the Vols in 2022.
“I was pleased with the fact that we were in a dog fight there,” coach Tony Vitello said after the game. “The bottom line is, for our team, we got better as a group today, because we were able to win a close game.”
Bucs starting pitcher Landon Smiddy cruised out of the gate. The Knoxville native fired three scoreless innings as it looked like Tennessee’s mighty offense had slowed down.
Then, Trey Lipscomb did Trey Lipscomb things. He sent his team-leading fifth homer of the season over the right field wall to give Tennessee a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. The big fly put Lipscomb at 22 RBI to go along with a .533 average through eight games.
“I’m not really surprised by what he’s doing,” Beck said of Lipscomb. “He’s put in the work for this long and it’s showing.”
In the sixth inning, ETSU threatened with the tying run on second and two outs. Noah Webb singled to bring the runner around third, but Beck gunned him from right field at home.
“I kinda compare it to basketball,” he said. “It’s like hitting a big three or getting a big dunk. They’re both different moments, but from the outfield is a little more special.”
Coming into the game, ETSU boasted one of the nation’s top offenses. The Bucs were 19th in the country in runs scored. They also had a team slash line of .358/.481/.646 with an OPS of 1.127.
However, Tennessee’s pitching thwarted ETSU from having much success at the plate. Sophomore left-hander Zander Sechrist pitched well in his second start of the season, allowing just two hits and one earned run in 4.2 innings.
Senior reliever Camden Sewell entered in the fifth inning with the tying run on third and got a strikeout to escape it. He then mowed through ETSU hitters for three more innings, setting a career high in strikeouts with seven.
“I don’t think I’m surprised (by Sechrist). He does a good job of throwing strikes,” Sewell said. “He messes with the hitters’ timing, and he did a really good job tonight.”
The competition for Tennessee (8-0) does not slow down this weekend. They face No. 1 Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma at Minute Maid Park in Houston this weekend.