A Homer Explosion Puts Vols into the Super Regional

UT Baseball Regionals | Photo by Bruce McCamish

Batting ninth in the order, catcher Cal Stark, a Farragut High School graduate, hit a solo homer in the fifth inning and a three-run blast in the ninth to cap the Vols’ 12-3 victory over Southern Mississippi in the Knoxville Regional final on Sunday, June 2.

Stark came to UT in 2023 after playing two years at junior colleges in Texas, Navarro College and Weatherford College. “There’s been growth there for four years,” said UT Coach Tony Vitello after Sunday’s game. He has met any challenge you can imagine head-on and he has improved from it.”

UT Baseball Regionals | Photo by Bruce McCamish

Stark’s second homer was the team’s 159th of the year, surpassing the single-season team record set in 2022. Rightfielder Kavares Tears, leftfielder Dylan Dreiling and shortstop Dean Curley also homered for the Vols against the Golden Eagles. Bubblegum-chewing pitcher Zander Sechrist was hit by a stinging line drive and knocked to the turf in an early inning but shook it off and went 4.2 innings, allowing three unearned runs. Nate Snead came on in relief for 4.1 scoreless innings.

In a 12-6 win over Indiana on Saturday, third baseman Billy Amick had a grand slam, adding to homers by Curley, Stark, and second baseman Christian Moore.

UT Baseball Regionals | Photo by Bruce McCamish

On Friday, the Volunteers had beaten Northern Kentucky 9-3 on homers by Amick, centerfielder Hunter Ensley and Dreiling. A.J. Causey allowed just two runs in 6.2 innings and Kirby “Vollie Fingers” Connell pitched two shutout innings in relief. It was the 120th appearance of Connell’s UT career.

 UT will play Evansville in the Super Regional in Knoxville June 7-9.

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