KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Attempting to complete their seventh consecutive non-conference series sweep, the No. 2/3 Tennessee Volunteers took the diamond against the Gonzaga Bulldogs Sunday for the series finale and dispatched the preseason West Coast Conference favorite, 17-9, on a sunny afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Following a similar script to the previous night’s outing, the Zags (1-10) manufactured an early 2-0 lead on an RBI single from Brian Kalmer and a sacrifice fly from Tommy Eisenstat – the first blemishes in sophomore starting pitcher Drew Beam’s 13.2 innings of work to that point.
Tennessee (11-2) answered immediately with a big inning, highlighted by a Jared Dickey grand slam off the scoreboard in right center. A single by sophomore Christian Moore and back-to-back walks from Blake Burke and Zane Denton chased Gonzaga starting pitcher Nate Deschreyver and brought in senior right hander Ty Buckner. Dickey welcomed Buckner by hitting UT’s first grand slam this season. The slam brought Dickey’s RBI total to 13 on the young season.
Moore (2-for-3, 2 H, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 3 SB, 3 R) left no aspect of the game un-impacted. His homer over the batter’s eye in center field in his second at-bat of the third inning plated two of Tennessee’s eight total runs in the frame and gave the Vols a commanding 8-2 lead they would not relinquish. Moore’s two hits in the inning extended his hitting streak to four games, matching a career long and the second such streak of the season. Moore has also now reached base in every game this season and extended his streak to 18 consecutive games dating back to last season. His three runs scored matched a career high set against Iona on Feb. 26, 2022, while his three stolen bases also marked a new career high.
Pitching with the lead, Beam finished with a no-decision and a final line of four innings pitched, three earned runs allowed on seven hits, a walk and three strikeouts.
Junior right-hander Bryce Jenkins picked up his first win for the Vols after transferring from Cleveland State Community College, tossing 1.2 innings of relief.
Meanwhile, the Orange and White continued to hang crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Senior outfielder Griffin Merritt put his third homer of the season over the right field fence in the fourth inning to give the team it’s fourth game of the season scoring 10 or more runs, a feat accomplished 29 times last season.
Junior shortstop Maui Ahuna had his first high impact game for the Volunteers, finishing his day 1-for-4 with a double, four RBIs, a walk and a run scored.
A home run from Gonzaga catcher Donovan Ratfield cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to four in the eighth inning, but they would get no closer. RBIs from Ahuna, Denton and senior Christian Scott in the bottom half of the frame, combined with a balk that scored junior outfielder Kyle Booker, pushed the margin to nine runs. Gonzaga would get a run back in the ninth, but mustered no other offense against sophomore reliever Jacob Bimbi.
Booker, starting his ninth game of the season, finished the day 3-for-4 with a double and run scored. The outing is his fourth game in a row with a hit, matching a career long set in 2021. His four base knocks also tied a career high.
UP NEXT: The Vols will take their 11-game winning streak back to Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Tuesday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. for a mid-week showdown with Boston College. The game will be streamed live on SEC Network+ and the ESPN app.