Baseball Preview: #6 Vols Head to Tuscaloosa to Take on Tide

Vols OF Drew Gilbert / Credit: UT Athletics

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The sixth-ranked Tennessee Vols will look to continue their hot start to conference play with a trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama this weekend.

The Big Orange have won six straight and 11 of their last 12 games heading into this weekend’s clash with the Crimson Tide. UT’s 5-1 start in SEC play is its best since going 8-1 to begin league play in 2001.

BROADCAST INFO

Friday’s series opener is slated for 7 p.m. ET and will be streamed on SEC Network+ with Eli Gold (PxP) and Lance Cormier (color) on the call. Saturday and Sunday’s contests will be broadcast on the SEC Network with Mike Morgan (PxP) and Todd Walker (color) calling the action.

Fans can also listen to the official Vol Network radio call of all three games on Sports Radio WNML (FM 99.1 / AM 990), as well as UTSports.com and the UT Gameday app with John Wilkerson handling play-by-play duties.

PROJECTED STARTING PITCHERS

Game 1: RHP Chad Dallas (4-0) vs. RHP Tyler Ras (3-1)
Game 2: LHP Will Heflin (2-1) vs. RHP Dylan Smith (0-3)
Game 3: RHP Blade Tidwell (3-1) vs. TBD

SERIES HISTORY

Overall: Alabama leads, 75-39
In Knoxville: Alabama leads, 25-22
In Tuscaloosa: Alabama leads, 45-16
Neutral Sites: Alabama leads, 5-1
Last Meeting: W, 3-0 (March 25, 2018)

UT has won four straight in the series after sweeping Alabama in Knoxville in the last meeting between the two programs in 2018.

NOTABLE

Road Vols
Tennessee has proven to be a tough opponent when playing away from home this season. The Vols enter this weekend’s series at Alabama with a 6-2 record on the road and will look to earn their third series win away from home after posting series victories at Georgia Southern and Georgia earlier this year.

Breaking Out the Brooms
With last weekend’s sweep over No. 14 LSU, the Vols recorded their fourth series sweep of the year, marking their most in a season since sweeping six opponents in 2004. Prior to last weekend’s series, Tennessee had swept the Tigers just once in program history (2008).

Starting SEC Play Strong
With the series sweep over LSU, Tennessee is now 5-1 in SEC games this year, its best start in conference play since 2001 when it started 8-1. It is also the first time the Vols have won each of their first two conference series since 2001 when they swept Florida and took two of three from South Carolina.

Walk-Off Wins
Tennessee posted back-to-back walk-off wins on Sunday against LSU. Drew Gilbert hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning of the first game and Luc Lipcius singled with the bases loaded in the series finale to give UT its fourth walk-off victory of the season. All four of the Vols’ walk-off wins have come in extra innings, where they are 5-0 this season and have won six straight extra-inning games dating back to 2019.

Hunley Earns SEC Weekly Honor
Senior relief pitcher Sean Hunley was named SEC Co-Pitcher of the Week on Monday after his impressive series against LSU last weekend, earning two wins and a save in UT’s sweep of the Tigers. Hunley became the 18th player in program history to earn SEC Pitcher of the Week honors and the first since Garrett Stallings, who did it twice in 2019.

The Mount Juliet, Tennessee, native earned his second save of the season in the series opener after tossing two innings of shutout relief to finish off a 3-1 victory. He then earned back-to-back wins in Games 2 and 3 to improve to 4-0 this season.

Russell Ties Home Run Record
Evan Russell had an historic performance in Tennessee’s Game 2 victory over the Tigers. The Lexington, Tennessee, native tied the program’s single-game home run record after hitting three bombs in the Vols’ 9-8 victory. Russell became the fifth player in program history to accomplish the feat and the first since 2009. He also set a new career high with five RBI in the win. The senior outfielder homered again in Tuesday’s victory over Western Carolina, marking his fourth long ball in the last three games.

Three Homer Games (UT History)
Evan Russell vs. LSU (March 27, 2021)
Cody Hawn vs. Ohio (March 6, 2009)
Todd Helton vs. Arkansas (March 25, 1995)
Alan Cockrell vs. Austin Peay (March 16, 1983)
Rusty Ensor vs. Vanderbilt (April 2, 1981)

OPPONENT SCOUT

Alabama Crimson Tide

  • 2021 Record: 15-9 (1-5 SEC)
  • Rankings: USA Today (RV) // NCBWA (RV)
  • 2019 Postseason: N/A
  •  Head Coach: Brad Bohannon (4th season) // Has led the Tide to an 88-65 record and signed a pair of top 25 recruiting classes.
  • Predicted SEC Finish: 7th (Western Division)
  • Preseason All-SEC Selections: Connor Prielipp (1st Team – SP), Owen Diodati (2nd Team – OF)
  • Stat Leaders:
    • Batting Avg: Peyton Wilson (.343)
    • Runs: Peyton Wilson (23)
    • Hits: Peyton Wilson (35)
    • Home Runs: Peyton Wilson (7)
    • RBI: Owen Diodati (21)
    • Stolen Bases: Peyton Wilson (7-7)
    • Wins: Chase Lee (4)
    • ERA (min. 15.0 IP): Antoine Jean (1.52)
    • Innings Pitched: Dylan Smith (37.0)
    • Strikeouts: Dylan Smith (49)
  • Notable: Have seven players with multiple home runs and rank 12th in the country with 32 total homers this season.

ON DECK

The Vols host Eastern Kentucky next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. before taking on eastern division rival Florida at Lindsey Nelson Stadium next weekend.

-UT Athletics

Blogs