GAINESVILLE, Fla.—After Chase Burns’ past two starts, he needed a bounce back performance on the mound. He did just that as No. 1 Tennessee (35-3, 15-1 SEC) defeated Florida (23-25, 6-10 SEC) 8-2 on Friday at Condron Family Ballpark.
Burns was dominant through his first seven starts of the season. He was 6-0 with a with a 1.15 ERA and had solidified his role as the Vols’ Friday starter.
However, his performance took a dip over the past two weeks against Missouri and Alabama, both at home. Burns threw a combined 5.2 innings with five walks. His ERA was elevated to 2.22.
On Friday against Florida, Burns looked like his true self. He held the Gators’ offense to just two hits and one earned run over 6.1 innings pitched. He struck out five on the night as well.
“It was great. We felt good coming to the yard knowing he was on the mound,” coach Josh Elander said. “(He has) elite competitiveness. Really good start for him tonight.”
Burns struggled to locate his fastball and slider against Missouri and Alabama. He also had some velocity lost on his fastball in those starts. On Friday, he located them both well. His fastball was back up to 94-98 mph, where it had been previously in the season.
“That kid’s pretty good, and he’s gonna pitch in the big leagues for a long, long time,” third baseman Trey Lipscomb said. “For him to bounce back like that is huge…that stuff goes a long way.”
Tennessee’s offense provided plenty of run support for Burns as well. The Vols did most of the damage in the second inning, where they put up seven runs. They brought 10 batters to the plate and had five hits, a walk and a hit by pitch in the onslaught.
“Just comfortable swings. Guys being in attack mode,” Elander said. “Guys were just on everything, breaking balls and heaters…guys just taking good swings and turning it loose.”
Florida starting pitcher Ryan Slater was the recipient of that damage in the second inning. He finished with 4.1 innings pitched with seven hits and eight earned runs. Slater was forced into that role earlier this week.
Hunter Barco, the Gators’ usual Friday starter, was scratched earlier in the week due to elbow discomfort. Barco holds a 2.50 ERA on the season.
“In the SEC, you’re lucky to get one or two (runs) in an inning. When we had a seven spot that early in the game, it was huge,” Lipscomb said.
The Vols continued to keep up the pace without coach Tony Vitello in the dugout. Vitello is continuing to serve a four-game suspension that was dealt after a win against Alabama on April 16.
The final game of Vitello’s suspension is on Saturday. He will be eligible to return for game three against Florida on Sunday. Pitching coach Frank Anderson and Elander have succeeded while filling in.
Game two between Tennessee and Florida is on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. EST.