Tennessee baseball beats Indiana to advance to Knoxville regional final

Tennessee baseball beats Indiana to advance to Knoxville regional final

Photo by Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee— Tennessee is one win away from advancing to the super regionals for the fourth straight season after topping Indiana 12-6 on Saturday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The Vols’ offense was dominant while their pitching did enough to keep things from getting interesting as they advanced to the regional final in Knoxville on Sunday.

Tennessee’s offense explodes in the second and third innings

It took Tennessee about an inning to adjust to Indiana RHP Connor Foley’s upper-90s fastball, which never lets up. But in the second inning, the Vols’ offense began to find its rhythm and they didn’t let Foley get away with it.

Hunter Ensley walked to give Tennessee a starting baserunner and then Indiana second baseman Jasen Oliver made a fantastic play to rob Kavares Tears of a single. The play saved a run when in the next at-bat Dean Curley took a 2-2 fastball deep to left field.

Freshman Curley hit nine home runs on the season when he went deep in the series finale at Auburn. But the shortstop’s power has faded in recent weeks and his production at the plate has been more unpredictable given the weekend. Curley went 91 at-bats without hitting a home run before giving the Vols the lead on Saturday night.

Nine hitter Cal Stark came to the plate with two outs and extended the inning with a hit pitch. Foley struck out Christian Moore on three pitches to open the game, in his second at-bat Moore took the first pitch he saw deep to right field for a two-run home run.

Tennessee loaded the bases again before Foley got out of the jam and reached the third inning. However, the problems were just beginning. The Vols loaded the bases again, this time with one out, and an RBI walk by Christian Moore ended their day.

The big turnaround in the third inning came two at-bats later, when Billy Amick hit Tennessee’s 12th grand slam of the season to give the Vols a 9-0 lead. It was Amick’s third home run in as many games, with a total of 10 RBIs on the three swings. That almost got the Hoosiers on their way before they recorded their first hit.

The commando eludes Drew Beam in the middle of an excursion

Drew Beam was dominant in the first two innings, retiring the Hoosiers in order both times and totaling three strikeouts.

But after Beam retired the first batter of the third inning, things went wrong for him. Jake Stadler doubled and then Beam walked nine-hitter Morgan Colopy before Devin Taylor hit a three-run homer to left field to put the Hoosiers on the board.

Indiana took Beam out of the game in the fourth inning by scoring another run and putting runners on first and second with two outs. Command was Beam’s biggest problem in the two innings as he threw a fastball up the middle to the Hoosiers’ top hitter while he walked one and hit two others.

The bad outing came at a good time given Tennessee’s offensive explosion. Still, it was one of Beam’s worst outings of the season, as he allowed four earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched, his second-shortest outing of the season.

More from RTI: Play-by-play of Tennessee Baseball’s win against Indiana

Behnke, consistent offense keeps big lead

Tennessee wasn’t as dominant after opening a 9-0 lead, but still kept Indiana at bay the rest of the way by adding a few more runs and a fantastic relief outing from Andrew Behnke.

Cal Stark boosted Tennessee’s offensive output to 10 runs when he hit a solo home run in the fourth inning. The Vols added two more runs an inning later on a Kavares Tears single combined with a fielding error.

The sophomore relieved Beam with two in the fourth and quickly walked the first batter he faced on four pitches to load the bases. But from then on he did his job at a high level. He stranded the bases loaded with a fly ball before posting 3.1 scoreless innings of relief.

Behnke struck out three batters and was only really threatened once by Indiana and came out of the inning unscathed thanks to a nice diving catch by Christian Moore. The 3.1 innings pitched by the left-handed pitcher were the longest outing of his career.


Until next time

Tennessee advances to the regional final in Knoxville, where it will face the winner of the Indiana-Southern Miss game at 6 p.m. ET at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Whoever wins between the Hoosiers and Golden Eagles will have to beat Tennessee twice.