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  • Knox News | The Knoxville News-Sentinel

    Big-game Drew Beam is back, and Tennessee is close to a College World Series final | Estes

    By Gentry Estes, Nashville Tennessean,

    26 days ago

    OMAHA, Neb. — Three rapid observations from Tennessee baseball ’s 6-1 win over North Carolina in Sunday night’s winners' bracket game at the 2024 College World Series:

    Big-game Drew Beam is back

    After struggling in his past few starts, Tennessee junior pitcher Drew Beam said there were “one or two tweaks” he needed to make to get back on track for the CWS.

    Looks like he made ‘em.

    For five innings Sunday against North Carolina, Beam allowed no runs and only one hit, striking out seven.

    After a lengthy midgame delay for an umpire change , Beam returned for the sixth inning (with a new home plate umpire) and allowed three quick hits, including Vance Honeycutt’s 27th home run of the season, prompting coach Tony Vitello to call it a night for Beam.

    Hats off to Tennessee’s Kirby Connell, who inherited Beam’s two baserunners with no outs and pitched out of the sixth-inning jam without allowing additional damage. And thumbs-up to Nate Snead for closing it out.

    But Sunday’s five-plus innings were big for Beam and for Tennessee’s pitching staff, which had to use six pitchers to get through Friday’s 12-11 comeback win over Florida State.

    That’s also why it was crucial, too, for Tennessee to win this game.

    The Vols don't play again until Wednesday (against either UNC or FSU), and they'll need only one more victory to make the weekend's championship series. Had they lost Sunday, they’d have needed to win three in a row.

    This park can’t contain Vols, either

    A lineup prodigious with home runs is in a ballpark infamously stingy about allowing home runs. With this Tennessee team and Charles Schwab Field, something was going to give.

    And so far, after two games of the CWS, it hasn’t been the Vols.

    Tennessee's lineup cooled considerably, but home runs still made the difference. Kavares Tears and Reese Chapman each cleared the right field fence Sunday night, making four home runs in two games for Tennessee, which had hit only one home run in Vitello’s first five CWS games.

    It wasn’t just that the Vols slugged a couple more home runs against UNC, but it was who was responsible for the damage. They didn't lean on their usual suspects like Christian Moore, Blake Burke and Billy Amick for this.

    Chapman didn’t even play against FSU. He batted eighth as the DH, making him the one player in the Vols’ lineup who didn’t have at least 10 home runs this season. Yeah, even that guy can go yard for Tennessee.

    Meanwhile, Tears is as hot as anyone on the team, going 2-for-4 with 4 RBIs. He homered against FSU, too, and his three-run shot in the fourth inning was a game-changing moment. Tears hit it after Tar Heels starter Shea Sprague had gotten a key strikeout of Hunter Ensley. A pitcher simply can't take a breather against this Tennessee lineup.

    How much different can one sport look?

    The only similarities between Tennessee’s first two games in this CWS were that Tears hit another home run and the Vols beat an ACC team.

    Otherwise, these contests were nothing alike.

    In comparison to Friday’s enthralling, high-scoring win, the Vols' win over the Tar Heels was downright dull. The teams didn’t have a hit between them until the fourth inning.

    Beam was matched for a while by Sprague, who permitted Tennessee’s fearsome lineup three hits in four innings. It’s just that two of the hits were home runs. So Sprague exited with a 4-0 deficit.

    Reach Tennessean sports columnist Gentry Estes at and on the X platform (formerly known as Twitter) @Gentry_Estes.

    This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Big-game Drew Beam is back, and Tennessee is close to a College World Series final | Estes

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