Going into the final game of the series between No. 7 Tennessee and South Carolina, it seemed that a starting pitcher would top Chase Burns and Chase Dollander’s starts in the first two games. Then Drew Beam pitched the game of his life as the Vols (19-1, 3-0 SEC) shut out the Gamecocks (10-8, 0-3 SEC) 10-0 to sweep the weekend series.
Beam’s start on Sunday was the performance of the year so far for the Vols. The freshman threw 7.2 innings with three strikeouts and one hit allowed, and carried a perfect game through six innings. South Carolina first baseman Brandt Belk broke it up to lead off the seventh inning. It was the Gamecocks lone hit of the game.
“I’d say so,” Beam said about Sunday being the best start of his baseball career. “That was one of my more fun starts, too.”
Tennessee coach Tony Vitello pulled Beam with 86 pitches in the eighth inning. It was the longest a starter had gone for the Vols this season. Beam has started every Sunday and lowered his ERA to 1.09.
“(Beam) made it easy to be in our dugout. You felt calm and then halfway through you felt like you were a fan, jumping on the bandwagon,” Vitello said. “The bottom line is, he’s a good athlete. He competes, throws strikes…you know what you’re gonna get every time out.”
That start capped off a dominant weekend from Tennessee pitching to open SEC play. All three starting pitchers earned wins, and they combined for 19.1 innings pitched and 19 strikeouts with two earned runs.
“Man, it was awesome,” catcher Evan Russell said. “(Catching them) was kinda difficult at times, but it was almost like they were on cruise control…They were lights out, and that’s hard to do coming into an environment that you’ve never been a part of.”
The Vols’ offense made it a little easier on the pitchers as well with the ability to almost score at will. Seven different Vols homered over the weekend. Tennessee leads the country in pretty much every offensive category including home runs, runs scored, hits and OPS.
That is due largely in part to the depth of the lineup and new faces that have made an immediate impact. Among those is freshman Christian Moore, who hit his seventh home run of the year on Sunday in just 31 at bats.
“It’s honestly insane. I think one through nine we’re pretty good. Anybody can go up there and hit a home run any pitch, any at bat,” Moore said. “It’s always fun seeing guys hit home runs, getting on base and producing runs.”
Tennessee began its SEC slate in 2022 with three wins. A sweep in the SEC is hard enough as is, but with the Vols traveling to No. 1 Ole Miss and No. 4 Vanderbilt the next two weekends, it made the series against South Carolina more important.
“Being able to do that right now, especially going into a gauntlet—on the road and seeing some good teams—getting every win we can is really crucial. That’s a pretty good team, and I think we handled business and played within ourselves,” Russell said.
Tennessee closes out a 10-game homestand on Tuesday against Butler before traveling to Ole Miss for its second SEC series.