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College World Series: Tennessee’s Staff is Almost as Good as Their Offense

The Volunteers are lead by their lineup, but their staff could carry them through Omaha

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Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr. via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Tennessee Volunteers’ offense is considered one of the best in this year’s College World Series, and for good reason as they’ve averaged eight runs per game through the NCAA Tournament.

But the Volunteers aren’t undefeated in this year’s tournament only because of their offense. Their pitching has been stellar this postseason as well holding opponents to just four runs per game; including three straight in which they held their opponents (Liberty twice and LSU) three runs or less.

The Texas Longhorns will be considered to have the best starting rotation in Virginia and Tennessee’s side of the bracket, but the Volunteers have an argument for second best (as would the Hoos). They’re lead by (and will most likely pitch against UVA) Jr. RHP Chad Dallas who will feature a 4.10 ERA, 1.10 ERA, and a ridiculous 11-1 record. Dallas will feature a fastball in the mid-90s, but does not walk hitters, having walked only 19 batters in 96.2 while striking out 118 in that same time. Hitters have seen some success off him however as they’re batting .235 on the season and he leads the team having given up 20 home runs this season.

Dallas struggled in his first start of the NCAA Tournament against Wright State giving up 4 earned runs and only striking out 5 in 4.1 innings. He rebounded the next week in the Super Regionals against LSU striking out 12 and walking none and holding the Tigers to just one earned run on five hits in six full innings.

It’s unclear if the Volunteers’ bullpen is not incredibly deep or if they just don’t have to be. In any event, they’ll heavily rely on four main relievers during their time in Omaha: Sean Hunley, Camden Sewell, Kirby Connell, and Redmond Walsh. The four combined to have thrown nearly a third (197 of 597.2) of Tennessee’s innings this season even though they only have three starts (all by Sewell) amongst them.

All 18 of Tennessee’s saves this season have come from those four though Sean Hunley has half of those. Hunley, a Senior, has a 2.92 ERA and .94 WHIP in 71 innings over 33 (!) games this season. He’s pitched in three of Tennessee’s five NCAA Tournament games thus far, but averaged more than three innings in each appearance totaling a 3.48 ERA.

Sewell, Connell, and Walsh all feature fairly similar numbers this season. Walsh has the best ERA (2.52), but Connell (3.00) and Sewell’s (2.79) aren’t awful either and Sewell leads the three with a 0.93 WHIP, but Connell’s 1.12 WHIP and Walsh’s 1.18 WHIP aren’t far behind. Walsh averages just over 1 strikeout per inning, but Sewell and Connell are just under 1 per inning. Sewell’s opponent’s batting average line separates him from the other two as he is holding opponents to a .183 average. Walsh and Sewell have both appeared in two NCAA Tournament games for the Volunteers, but Connell has only pitched in one (2 hits, 1 BB, in 0.1 IP against Liberty), so all three of them are fresh.

The Volunteers’ staff are without a doubt the best staff UVA will have faced this postseason. Dallas Baptist featured quality starters and excellent bullpen arms that kept the UVA bats quite for most of the games, but Omaha is a different story. At any time nerves could get the best of a pitcher and it will be up to the Cavaliers’ offense to take advantage of that.

The Hoos relied heavily on the home run in the Columbia regional and Super Regional to advance. Tennessee has given 72 up home runs on the season (more than UVA has hit - 48), but TD Ameritrade plays bigger than most teams are used to. Davenport Field however is where most home runs go to die, so UVA could be more set up to play in the cavernous stadium in Omaha.

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