What UVA Baseball fans need to know about Tennessee

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(© Sean Gladwell – stock.adobe.com)

Virginia’s bracket in Omaha includes the #2 national seed, Texas, the #3 seed, Tennessee, and the #7 seed, Mississippi State.

No big deal, right?

Tennessee (50-16) is somehow not the best team in the bunch, which speaks to the depth of the group.

The Vols have had a nice run to the 2021 College World Series – well, since they had to win their opener in Knoxville Regional against Wright State with a walkoff grand slam in a white-knuckles 9-8 affair.

UT beat Liberty (which split with Virginia in a home-and-home this season) in its other two Regional games, by 9-3 and 3-1 finals, then swept LSU, 4-2 and 15-6, in the Super Regional.

Good team – slashing .280/.385/.477 and averaging 7.1 runs per game on offense, the pitchers putting up a 3.42 ERA and 1.15 WHIP as a staff.

OK, damn good team.

Let’s break ‘em down.

Starting rotation

Expect to see righthander Chad Dallas (11-1, 4.10 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 118K/19BB, .235 opponent BA in 86.1 IP in 2021) on Sunday in the opener.

The ERA stands out as being out of place given the other fundamentals, and here’s a reason why: since April 29, he has a 4.71 ERA, and he’s given up four or more earned runs in five of his seven starts in that stretch.

The best start of late came when it was needed – in a Game 1 Super Regional win over LSU, Dallas gave up two runs, one earned, on five hits in six innings, striking out 12.

If the teams have to match up down the line, the #2 starter is righty Blake Tidwell (10-3, 3.57 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 87K/32BB, .235 opponent BA in 95.2 IP), and the #3 guy is lefthander Will Heflin (3-3, 4.07 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 77K/17BB, .268 opponent BA in 79.2 IP).

The schedule has this bracket playing on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and then Saturday if necessary.

You could see teams going back to their #1 starter on Saturday in a winner-advances scenario.

If UVA and Tennessee were to meet up on Friday, I can see coach Tony Vitello going to righty Camden Sewell (4-1, 2 saves, 2.79 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 43K/14BB, .183 opponent BA in 48.1 IP), who gave the Vols six scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over Florida back on May 29.

Vitello did use Sewell in short and medium relief in the Regional and Super Regional rounds.

A Friday matchup could end up being a staff day if Sewell wouldn’t be available.

Bullpen

Righthander Sean Hunley (7-4, 9 saves, 2.92 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 75K/11BB, .214 opponent BA in 71.0 IP) obviously has a rubber arm.

Dude has thrown 71 innings in 33 appearances out of the pen.

Holy crap.

Redmond Walsh (5-1, 5 saves, 2.52 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 38K/8BB, .243 opponent BA in 35.2 IP) is your late-inning lefty shutdown guy.

Vitello has another late-inning lefty, Kirby Connell (1-1, 3.00 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 39K/3BB, .265 opponent BA in 42.0 IP).

If things get squirrely in the middle innings, and Tennessee needs to eat some innings in a deficit situation to preserve the pen for later on, you might see righty Mark McLaughlin (2-0, 1.83 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 40K/21BB, .130 opponent BA in 34.1 IP).

Lineup

There’s power – 98 homers and counting this season, with five guys in double digits – and speed – 72 stolen bases as a team.

Plus, three guys with .400+ OBPs.

Leadoff man Liam Spence (.339/.477/.466, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 5-of-8 SB/SBA) is a helluva table-setter, scoring a team-best 63 runs this season.

The thunder and lightning comes from Jordan Beck (.270/.331/.524, 15 HR, 63 RBI), Luc Lipcius (.248/.364/.495, 15 HR, 42 RBI), Evan Russell (.247/.353/.520, 14 HR, 43 RBI), Max Ferguson (.256/.382/.471, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 15-of-19 SB/SBA), Drew Gilbert (.275/.344/.443, 10 HR, 62 RBI, 10-of-11 SB/SBA) and Jake Rucker (.331/.400/.526, 9 HR, 55 RBI, 7-of-10 SB/SBA).

Story by Chris Graham


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