STATESBORO, Ga. – After 346 days of no baseball, No. 16 Tennessee opened its long-awaited 2021 season with a hard-fought 5-3 victory on the road over Georgia Southern.
Sophomore outfielder Jordan Beck sparked the offense with two big RBI hits, including his first home run of the year, while junior pitcher Chad Dallas was dominant on the mound, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
UT jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first five innings but had to withstand a late comeback attempt from the Eagles before securing victory No. 1 on the year.
The Vols wasted no time getting the bats going as Beck gave the Big Orange an early 2-0 lead with a two-run double in the top of the first inning, smoking a 0-1 pitch off the wall in left field to score Max Ferguson and Liam Spence.
An RBI double down the left-field line by Luc Lipcius extended the lead to 3-0 in the third inning. Eagles’ starting pitcher Jordan Jackson was pulled one batter later after throwing 65 pitches in just 2.1 innings. Lipcius came in to score later in the inning on a hard-hit ball by Connor Pavolony to make it 4-0.
The Vols’ first home run of the year came off the bat of Beck, who continued his big night with a no-doubter over the left-center field fence in the top of the fifth to give UT a comfortable 5-0 lead.
However, Tennessee’s bats cooled off against Georgia Southern reliever Tyler Owens and the Eagles scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to get back in the game, breaking up Dallas’ no-hit bid with a solo homer by Noah Ledford. GSU added two more runs in the frame after Dallas was pulled to cut the deficit to just two heading to the eighth inning.
Despite struggling in the seventh, Dallas finished with an impressive final line of 6.1 innings pitched, two runs, two hits and seven strikeouts while allowing just one walk to pick up the win and improve to 4-0 in his Tennessee career.
Senior relievers Sean Hunley and Redmond Walsh pitched the final 2.2 innings, combining for five strikeouts. Walsh retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth to earn his first save of the year and the 12th of his career.
Game 2 of the weekend series is slated for a 2 p.m. first pitch tomorrow afternoon. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and fans can listen to John Wilkerson call the action on UTSports.com and the UT Gameday App, as well.
Beck’s Big Bat: Sophomore slugger Jordan Beck started his season with a bang, leading the Vols with three RBI on a pair of extra-base hits. The Hazel Green, Alabama, native got the scoring started with a two-run double in the top of the first and added another run to the board with a monster home run in the fifth inning, the second of his career.
Say Cheese!: Junior right hander Chad Dallas got the opening-day start for the second year in a row and did not disappoint. The Texas native had a no-hitter broken up with one out in the seventh and earned his first win of the year, improving his career record to 4-0.
Walsh Moving Up Career Saves List: Redshirt senior reliever Redmond Walsh slammed the door with a perfect 1-2-3 inning on Friday night to earn his 12th career save, which moved him into sole possession of fourth on UT’s all-time list.
Success in Season Openers: Tennessee improved to 74-35-2 all-time in season openers with Friday’s victory and 3-1 under head coach Tony Vitello.