Vol baseball splits Saturday doubleheader to take South Carolina series

Tennessee secured its first road series win this season and its second straight series win in Columbia.
Vol baseball
Vol baseball(Tennessee Athletic Communications)
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 2:39 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - No. 18 Tennessee split its Saturday doubleheader against No. 13 South Carolina at Founders Park to come away with an important series win heading into the postseason.

Despite a dazzling performance on the mound from Chase Dollander, a five-run sixth inning powered the Gamecocks to a victory in game one.

UT responded well with a dominant performance in game two, routing the Gamecocks, 12-1, to secure its first road series win this season and it’s second straight series win in Columbia.

Game 1: South Carolina 6, Tennessee 1

South Carolina scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth to break open a 1-1 game and take the first contest of Saturday’s doubleheader, 6-1.

Tennessee starter Chase Dollander had arguably his best performance of the season, tying a career high with 13 strikeouts in just 5.1 innings pitched. The junior right hander was stuck with the loss despite his incredible outing, giving up two earned runs on two hits.

Christian Scott drove in UT’s only run with an RBI double to tie the game at one in the top of the fifth inning. Christian Moore and Zane Denton were the only other players to record a hit in the game for the Vols, who were held to just three total hits.

Gamecocks’ starting pitcher Jack Mahoney was fantastic as well, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out nine to pick up the win.

Braylen Wimmer homered in the bottom of the first to open the scoring and led USC at the plate with two hits.

Tennessee opted to go to the bullpen after a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth, but Chase Burns was unable to get the Vols out of trouble and was only able to record one out while allowing three earned runs on five hits.

Game 2: Tennessee 12, South Carolina 1

Tennessee bounced back in a big way to win the second game of Saturday’s twin billing, using two big innings and an impressive pitching performance by Drew Beam to come away with a 12-1 victory.

Griffin Merritt went 2-for-3 with a homer and three runs scored while Christian Scott tied a career high with four RBIs to lead a balanced effort offensively. The Vols batted around in the fourth and seventh innings, scoring four and six runs, respectively, in those two frames.

Following a pair of rough starts in his last two outings, Beam was back to his normal self on Saturday, holding the Gamecocks’ powerful lineup to just one run on five hits in six innings to earn the win. The sophomore right hander had four strikeouts, as well.

After three scoreless innings to start the game, the Vols took advantage of a pair of USC errors to jump in front with four runs in the top of the fourth inning. Zane Denton, Scott and Maui Ahuna all drove in runs in the inning, highlighted by Ahuna’s two-run double down the left-field line to make it 4-0.

The two sides traded solo home runs over the next two frames as Cole Messina briefly cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to three with his 17th long ball of the year to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Merritt immediately answered with his 17th bomb to lead off the fifth and restore UT’s four-run lead.

The Big Orange increased their advantage to 6-1 with another leadoff homer in the sixth when Cal Stark hammered a 1-0 pitch into the visitor’s bullpen in left center for his fifth four bagger of the season.

Tennessee erased any chance of a South Carolina comeback with a six-spot in the top of the seventh as 12 batters came to the plate and four different Vols had at least one RBI.

AJ Russell struck out the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to end the game and give UT just its second series win in Columbia since 2006.

Starter Matthew Becker got the loss for the Gamecocks after giving up four runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks in four innings of work.

UP NEXT: With the regular season in the rearview, Tennessee (38-18, 16-14 SEC) heads to Hoover, Alabama for the 2023 SEC Tournament.

The Vols will be the No. 7 seed and open the postseason on Tuesday in the opening round against No. 10 seed Texas A&M at approximately 1:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

With a win over the Aggies, UT would advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament and take on No. 2 seed Arkansas on Wednesday afternoon.