Vols sweep Vandy, off to best league start by SEC team in 28 years

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee freshman pitcher Drew Beam threw a two-hitter Sunday afternoon as the top-ranked Volunteers polished off a sweep of No. 9 Vanderbilt with a 5-0 triumph.

Forget losing.

Minutes after Chase Dollander worked eight innings, the first six of them scoreless, during Saturday night's 5-2 victory at Vanderbilt, the Tennessee sophomore pitcher was asked by reporters whether he could remember the last time the Volunteers were trailing.

"I feel like it's been a while," Dollander said while breaking into laughter. "Was it Texas? This has been an awesome experience."

It certainly wasn't Sunday, when the No. 1 Vols polished off their latest convincing sweep of a Southeastern Conference power with a 5-0 blanking of the No. 9 Commodores. Dollander's gem clinched Tennessee's first series win in Nashville since 2009, and freshman Drew Beam blanketed the hosts in the finale with a two-hitter.

Beam became the first Tennessee pitcher to hurl a shutout since Garrett Stallings in 2019.

Tennessee's last deficit during an inning was on March 13, when Rhode Island scored a run in the top of the first before the Vols countered with four in the bottom half on their way to a 12-3 rout. The last time the Vols trailed after a full inning was indeed the 7-2 loss to top-ranked Texas in Houston on March 4.

The scorching Vols are now 27-1 overall with a 19-game winning streak and are 9-0 in SEC contests, having drubbed South Carolina, Ole Miss and Vandy (20-7, 4-5) by the combined score of 65-16. Tennessee will host Lipscomb on Tuesday before welcoming Missouri on Friday, when the Vols can match Florida's 1994 team with a 10-0 league start.

"We're still searching for a few roles," Vols coach Tony Vitello told reporters Sunday when asked about his team convincingly disposing of challenger after challenger. "A lot of ups and downs still remain in this season."

Said center fielder Drew Gilbert, who had three RBIs in the finale: "As long as Coach Vitello is here, there will be no such thing as complacency."

Friday night's 6-2 opening triumph resulted in a program-record 17th straight win, and it started in bizarre fashion when Jordan Beck's first-inning home run was nullified by umpires due to the required sticker on his bat being absent.

"I was hitting in the cage earlier and looked down and had seen it fly off," Beck said afterward, "but I didn't really think much about it. I was like, 'Whatever,' and I put the bat down."

Luc Lipcius launched a two-run homer in the second inning and mockingly inspected his bat after rounding the bases. Friday's frenzied setting was not replicated, as Chase Burns, Dollander and Beam simply wore down the Commodores and their fans.

Burns, Dollander and Beam are a combined 17-0 this season.

"You definitely notice that," Gilbert said of the increased silence. "When you're stomping on someone's throat, it can get a little quieter."

Tennessee's league start has transpired at the expense of two programs - South Carolina and Vandy - that have each won two national championships since 2010 and an Ole Miss team that was ranked No. 1 when the Vols came to town. The Commodores have been the standard of the sport recently, having played in four of the past seven College World Series title pairings, so Vitello was measured in this weekend's accomplishment.

"Their past 20 years have been pretty dang good, so I think you have to put it in perspective," he said. "It's here now, and fortunately we were the better team."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.