KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee opened its 2020 season with a shutout win over Western Illinois on a chilly Friday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Pitching ruled the day for the Vols in their 3-0 victory, as sophomore starter Chad Dallas and junior reliever Sean Hunley combined to throw nine shutout innings while holding the Leathernecks to just two base hits.
Dallas got the opening day start in place of Garrett Crochet, who is dealing with minor arm soreness and was held out for precautionary reasons. The junior college transfer made the most of his opportunity, tossing five scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and two walks to go along with four strikeouts en route to earning a win in his first-career appearance for the Big Orange.
Hunley picked up right where Dallas left off, retiring the first eight batters he faced. The Mount Juliet, Tennessee native allowed just one hit and struck out a pair over four innings to earn his first save of the season.
WIU ace Javin Drake was stuck with the loss despite a solid performance on the mound. The senior right hander allowed just two runs on two hits and struck out five batters in five innings of work.
Pavolony and Rucker Go Yard
Tennessee’s only three runs on the day all came via the long ball. The Vols scored their first two runs of the year on a home run by Pavolony in the second inning. The sophomore catcher hammered a 3-1 pitch over the left-field fence to put the Big Orange ahead 2-0.
Rucker provided UT with some more insurance in the bottom of the eight. The Greenbrier, Tennessee native hit a solo shot to straightaway center field to lead off the frame. It was the first-career homer for the Vols’ sophomore shortstop.
Dallas, who goes by the nickname “Cheese”, is the second Tennessee pitcher in as many seasons to throw five-plus shutout innings in their first start with the program. Camden Sewell allowed just one hit in six shutout innings in his first-career start as a freshman last season against Middle Tennessee (Feb. 27).
With Friday’s 3-0 blanking of the Leathernecks, UT has now posted shutouts in its season opener in each of the past two seasons. The Vols held Appalachian State to just one hit in a 6-0 victory over the Mountaineers on opening day last season.