Stats/Story: Two-Out Offense Pushes #2/3 Vols Past Gonzaga, 8-2

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Clutch two-out hitting and a six-run sixth inning, the No. 2/3 Tennessee Volunteers defeated Gonzaga in the series opener, 8-2, Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Six of the eight runs scored by the Vols (9-2) came with two-outs, highlighted by a bases-clearing double from Blake Burke in a monster sixth inning for the Big Orange. The game was scoreless for the first four-and-a-half innings of play until Christian Moore ripped one through the breezy night sky, clearing the porches in left field for his second homer of the season.

The victory marked win No. 200 for Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello, who’s in his sixth season as the Vols’ skipper. He becomes just the third coach in program history to reach 200 wins and is the fastest to do so (279 games), surpassing the legendary Rod Delmonico (302 games).

Gonzaga (1-8) got a good start from Owen Wild, but once Tennessee got his pitch count up, it was able to capitalize on mistake pitches. In that sixth inning, UT worked five 3-2 counts and got seven three-ball counts. Patience resulted in bases-loaded RBIs for both Jared Dickey and Moore, who was hit by a pitch and a drew a walk, respectively, to bring in runs.

Zane Denton also connected on his first homer in a UT uniform, getting the sixth inning started with an opposite-field long ball to leadoff the frame. 

Chase Dollander, once again, was fantastic on the mound. The powerful right-hander fanned 11 in six innings of work and did not allow a run to cross the plate. He picked up his second victory of the year, improving to 2-1, and upped his season strikeout total to 41. Through three starts, Dollander has a strikeouts per nine innings mark of 16.5.

Burke had his three-game home run streak broken, but was still the focal point of the offense, accumulating three hits and a pair of RBIs in the win. Every starter in the Volunteer batting order, except for one, reached base and the patient approach at the plate forced Gonzaga to throw 180 total pitches in the game.

Out of the bullpen, both Kirby Connell and Zach Joyce tossed a scoreless inning, each retiring the side in order. Both relievers have been fantastic in the young 2023 season, allowing just one baserunner between the two of them in 4.1 and 5.2 innings, respectively.

UP NEXT: Tennessee returns to Lindsey Nelson Stadium for the second game of the series against Gonzaga on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+ and the ESPN app.

-UT Athletics

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