UT downs Eagles for CWS berth

Published 12:11 pm Tuesday, June 13, 2023

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For the second time in three years, the Tennessee Volunteers are Omaha bound.

Tennessee punched its ticket to the 2023 Men’s College World Series with a 5-0 victory over Southern Mississippi in the winner-take-all game three of the NCAA Hattiesburg Super Regional late on Monday night at Pete Taylor Park.

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Outstanding pitching performances from sophomores Drew Beam and Chase Burns led the way for the Vols as they posted their ninth shutout of the season, holding the Golden Eagles to seven hits, all of which were singles.

Beam got the start and was able to keep USM’s hitters off balance all night long by utilizing all of his pitches, tossing six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. Beam ran into trouble in the seventh after allowing back-to-back seeing-eye singles to put runners on the corners with no outs before making way for the bullpen.

After Aaron Combs got a big strikeout to retire leadoff man Matthew Etzel, Chase Burns put away the next two batters via strikeout to get the Vols out of the jam unscathed, punching out Dustin Dickerson on three pitches before erasing three-hole hitter Slade Wilks with a 102-mph fastball to end the frame and preserve UT’s 4-0 lead.

Burns pitched the final 2.2 innings to record his second save of the season. The hard-throwing right hander did not allow a single hit and walked just one batter in his outing.

The trio of Griffin Merritt, Zane Denton and Maui Ahuna provided the offense for Tennessee, combining for three hits, three runs and five RBIs.

Merritt opened the scoring with an RBI single in the second inning to plate Christian Moore, who also had a hit and scored twice on the night.

Denton provided the biggest hit of the evening, hammering a 2-0 pitch over the wall in right center field for a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to give UT a 4-0 lead and some breathing room. The home run was Denton’s 16th of the season and fourth of the NCAA Tournament after hitting three in last weekend’s Clemson Regional.

Following Combs’ and Burns’ heroics to get the Vols out of the seventh-inning jam, Ahuna put the cherry on top of Monday’s victory with a leadoff solo home run in the bottom of the inning to round out the scoring. The junior leadoff hitter finished the game 1-for-2 with two runs scored, an RBI and two walks.

Seven different Southern Miss batters recorded a hit on the night, but none had more than one base knock as UT’s pitching staff frustrated the Golden Eagles all game long.

Niko Mazza was stuck with the loss for Southern Miss (46-20) after allowing four earned runs on five hits and four walks in five innings.

With the victory, Tennessee won its fourth super regional in program history, including its third on the road.

UP NEXT: The Vols (43-20) travel to Omaha for their sixth appearance in the Men’s College World Series, where they will open up with a marquee SEC matchup against No. 5 national seed LSU on Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

UT is the only SEC program and one of just four in the nation to appear in at least two of the last three College World Series, joining Stanford (2021, 2022, 2023), Texas (2021 & 2022) and Virginia (2021 & 2023).