Another Strong Start from Causey, Timely Hitting Lead #7/8 Vols to Win in Series Opener
Courtesy / UT Athletics

Another Strong Start from Causey, Timely Hitting Lead #7/8 Vols to Win in Series Opener

Game Recap: Baseball | March 08, 2024

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Junior pitcher AJ Causey turned in yet another strong performance on the mound while the Vols got key hits when they needed them to take down Illinois, 6-3, on a rainy Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

After giving up a run in the top of the first, Causey settled in and was dominant for the remainder of his outing, racking up 12 strikeouts to tie a career high. The Alabama native scattered six hits and allowed just the one run on the night to pick up the win and improve to 3-0 on the year.

 The Vols (14-1) responded immediately after falling into an early 1-0 hole, tagging Illinois starter Jack Crowder for three runs in the bottom of the first to take a lead that they held for the rest of the game. Christian Moore and Blake Burke opened the inning with back-to-back doubles to tie the game at one before Billy Amick hit his ninth home run of the year one batter later to give UT a 3-1 lead.

Tennessee extended its lead to 4-1 in the second courtesy of a solo homer from Cal Stark, his first of the year, and added runs in the sixth and the eighth to build a 6-1 lead.

Dylan Dreiling had the best night at the plate for the Vols, going 2-for-3 with a solo homer, two runs scored and a walk. Dean Curley also added to his RBI total with a run-scoring double in the sixth inning.

Andrew Behnke posted another impressive relief outing, tossing two shutout innings with three strikeouts while working out of a couple of jams. Sophomore Marcus Phillips earned his first-career save by retiring the final two batters of the game to halt a potential comeback bid after the Fighting Illini plated a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to cut their deficit to three.

Camden Janik led Illinois with three hits and two RBIs while Cal Hejza and Brody Harding also tallied two hits apiece. Crowder suffered the loss to fall to 0-1 on the year after allowing five runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings of work.

UP NEXT: Game two between the Vols and Fighting Illini is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

STAT OF THE GAME: Causey tied a career high with 12 strikeouts in Friday’s victory, marking the third time he’s hit that mark in his career and the first time he’s done so at Tennessee.

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