Power and pitching carry Vols to Vitello’s 150th win
Tennessee stayed with its brand so far in 2022 with home runs and dominant pitching, and Tony Vitello became the fastest coach in program history to reach 150 wins.
It was a Trey Lipscomb game yet again. Paired with another dominant night from the pitching staff, his performance propelled No. 7 Tennessee (16-1) to a 7-1 win over Eastern Kentucky (11-7).
Lipscomb’s power and ability to drive in runs have been on display all season. Both of those trends held true on Tuesday. He hit two home runs and had six RBIs, including a grand slam in the second inning.
“It’s pretty cool, because when I come to the cages I just do my same routine that I do every day,” Lipscomb said. “Then I’ll go out onto the field and have confidence in the box and it’s just pretty cool to see it pay off.”
Lipscomb’s eight home runs are tied for first in the SEC with LSU’s Jacob Berry. He has 34 RBIs, which leads Tennessee by a landslide. The next closest are Evan Russell and Christian Moore with 16 each.
“It’s been fun to watch his mentality,” coach Tony Vitello said. “He’s always had great character, but now he’s got strong character on the field. I think it permeates to his teammates as well.”
Freshman Christian Moore hit a home run as well, his sixth of the year in just 26 at bats. As a team, Tennessee has hit 46 big flies in non-conference play, which is the most in the nation. In 2021, they hit only 19 before SEC play.
“(Lipscomb) and Moore and a few of those other guys, they look like they can go across the street and put on some pads,” Vitello said.
Tennessee’s pitching staff produced another gem as well on Tuesday. Five pitchers combined to one-hit the Colonels—a solo home run from Conner Davis in the fourth inning.
Zander Sechrist has quickly become the Vols’ midweek maestro. He was convincing on the mound in his fourth start, all of them being midweek tilts. On Tuesday, Sechrist threw five innings, allowed one hit and one run with seven strikeouts. He tallied 24 strikeouts in his 15.2 innings over four starts this year.
“More offspeed I’d say (was working for me),” Sechrist said. “My last start it wasn’t really working well, but today it felt better.”
The Vols’ bullpen had a stranglehold on Eastern Kentucky’s offense as well. Vitello elected to throw his high leverage guys on Tuesday to give them a final tune-up ahead of SEC play this weekend. Will Mabrey, Mark McLaughlin, Ben Joyce and Redmond Walsh combined for four no-hit innings with six strikeouts.
“If we get problems based off of too many guys throwing well, we’ll be in a very rare category in the country and we’ll take it,” Vitello said.
Vitello earned his 150th win as Tennessee’s coach on Tuesday. In his fifth season on Rocky Top, he has a 150-69 record. He became the fourth coach in program history to reach 150 wins, joining Rod Delmonico (699), Bill Wright (408) and Dave Serrano (157). Vitello’s 219 games is the fewest of the bunch to reach that milestone.
Tennessee opens up SEC play against South Carolina at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.