NCAA Baseball: Vols stay alive at Men’s College World Series


Tennessee pitcher Chase Burns tossed six scoreless innings of relief in the Vols’ win over Stanford. Photo by Glenn Sattell.

OMAHA – Tennessee has been counted out more than once already this season. The Volunteers stumbled through the better part of the 2023 regular season, a non-factor in the SEC title chase. They never challenged for regular season honors, limping to a 16-14 finish in SEC play.

But the Volunteers may have found their footing as the 2023 regular season schedule drew to a close. Unlike last season, where the team found itself on top of the NCAA rankings for most of the season, Tennessee toiled in relative obscurity in 2023. That is, until the games really started to count.

The Vols have picked up steam through the postseason, winning regional and super regional titles to advance to Omaha and the Men’s College World Series. It hasn’t been the smoothest ride through the postseason, but an effective one nonetheless.

After dropping their opener in Omaha to LSU, the Vols were once again counted out. Dropping down to the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament, Tennessee met Stanford in a game of survive or go home. And has been the case this season, the Vols ultimately rose to the occasion.

Tennessee’s Maui Ahuna is tagged out at the plate in the first inning. Ahuna delivered three hits and later scored a run to spark the comeback. Photo by Glenn Sattell

Tennessee sophomore pitcher Chase Burns came out of the bullpen to throw six innings of shutout relief and the Volunteers rallied from a 4-0 deficit to eliminate Stanford, 6-4, at Charles Schwab Field.

Burns allowed just two hits while striking out nine and did not walk a batter in blanking the Cardinal over the final six frames. The stellar performance enabled the Vols to come back and tie the game with a 4-run fifth inning, and eventually win it with two more runs in the seventh.

Stanford jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning before adding a pair of runs in the third to take a commanding early advantage.

Tennessee’s Griffin Merritt had a hit and scored a run in the Vols’ 6-4 comeback win over Stanford. Photo by Glenn Sattell

However, Maui Ahuna and Jared Dickey answered back in leading the charge for Tennessee with three hits apiece. Blake Burke and Zane Denton added two hits each, while Christian Moore drove in a pair of runs.

“Coming in out of the bullpen, you’ve got one thing in mind, it’s just do your job,” Burns said. “No fight is too big for us.”

So, the Volunteers lived to fight another day. They’ll take on LSU in an elimination game with the winner advancing to meet No. 1-ranked Wake Forest.

“Guys were excited about the challenge,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said of the comeback victory. “The offensive approach was there, but it was kind of a kick in the gut to think all of a sudden we’re down in the first (inning).

“And that was a theme early in the year. We expected to do great things right out of the chute, and when it didn’t go well guys got deflated. Somewhere along the year we learned to respond the right way. I think we grew up as a team, handled situations better like that.”

They’ve seemingly found comfort in doing things the hard way, but Tennessee remains one of six teams still playing in Omaha for the chance at a national championship.

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