Vols set single-season home run mark; former five-star receiver commits

The top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers are scheduled to play at least 15 more baseball games this season and could easily play more than 20.

Breaking the program's single-season home run record is a quest that's already in the rear-view mirror.

Jordan Beck, Kyle Booker, Blake Burke, Ethan Payne and Logan Steenstra homered Tuesday evening inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium as the Vols routed Alabama A&M 14-1 before a sellout crowd of 4,329. It was Steenstra's shot to left field in the eighth inning that accounted for Tennessee's 108th homer of the season, topping the 107 that the 1998 Vols accumulated.

"I think it's good for our guys and something they can hang their hat on down the road," Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. "Overall, though, we just want to have good at-bats, and I think this is a byproduct of that."

Tennessee produced a six-homer night in last Friday's 17-4, late-inning obliteration of Auburn, and the Vols entered Tuesday leading the nation comfortably in that category over Old Dominion (95) and Texas (86). Trey Lipscomb leads the team with 18 homers, while Beck's 12th on Tuesday placed him in second ahead of Luc Lipcius and Jorel Ortega, who have 11 apiece.

Vols pitcher Chase Dollander recorded two outs in Tuesday's second inning, which marked his first appearance since getting struck by the ball while on the mound against Alabama on April 16.

"I've been anticipating this for 17 days now," Dollander said. "It felt really good to get back out there, and my arm felt really good, so that's all I can really ask for."

Tennessee, which became the first team nationally to reach 40 victories this season with Sunday's 5-3 topping of Auburn, improved to 41-4 overall entering its Southeastern Conference series at Kentucky that begins Thursday night with Chase Burns getting the start. The last SEC team to start out 41-4 was South Carolina in 2000.

Alabama A&M dropped to 8-31 after equalling its most lopsided loss of the season.

Vols land McCoy

Tennessee's football team received a commitment Tuesday night from former Southern California receiver Bru McCoy, who signed with the Trojans in 2019 but only played for them during the 2020 season.

McCoy was a five-star signee and the No. 9 overall prospect in a class headed by Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith, Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder from Santa Ana, California, amassed 21 receptions for 236 yards and two touchdowns in 2020 but didn't play this past season following a July arrest on suspicion of felony intimate partner violence.

Though he remained suspended at USC before entering the NCAA transfer portal in January, the L.A. County District Attorney's Office declined to pursue a case due to insufficient evidence.

USC has provided quite the transfer pipeline to Tennessee in recent years with receiver Velus Jones Jr., kicker Chase McGrath and defensive lineman Caleb Tremblay. Jones was the 71st overall pick of the NFL draft last weekend, getting selected by the Chicago Bears.

Cards sign Payton

The Arizona Cardinals announced the signing of former Vols receiver JaVonta Payton to a free-agent contract after Payton went undrafted.

Payton, a 6-1, 190-pounder from Hillsboro High in Nashville, played two seasons at Northwest Mississippi Community College and then two seasons at Mississippi State before using his extra year implemented by the NCAA due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. He started 12 of 13 games with the Vols last season, amassing 18 receptions for 413 yards (22.9 yards per catch) and six touchdowns.

Included in that total was a 75-yard touchdown reception at Florida and a 75-yard scoring catch at Kentucky, which transpired on the first play from scrimmage.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.