The Vols are set to start a 3 game slate against Gonzaga at Lindsey Nelson Stadium this weekend. Tennessee will head into the weekend series on an 8 game winning streak, while the Zags have struggled early starting the year 1-7. Despite the lackluster record, the Zags are coming off an impressive 2022 campaign and should not be overlooked. Both teams have come on strong over the last few years, which should lead to a fun matchup in Knoxville.
Gonzaga has had a rough go this season, playing one of the toughest early season schedules in the country. They started the year traveling to Lubbock, TX to play Texas Tech, currently ranked 16th in the CBC poll, and got swept in a 4 game series. The following weekend, Gonzaga traveled to Phoenix, AZ where they picked up an extra inning win against Ohio State on Friday, then dropped back to back games against Grand Canyon, and finished the weekend with a loss to Ohio State.
Despite the underwhelming early season record, the Zags offense has proven to be somewhat potent, averaging 6.38 runs per game. Gonzaga's biggest issue has been on the mound. The Bulldogs lost four pitchers to the draft last year, including their ace Gabriel Hughes who drafted 10th overall to Colorado. With almost an entirely new weekend rotation and a struggling bullpen, their staff ERA currently sits at 8.69 ranking 251st in the country.
Tennessee Athletics, 2023, Maui Ahuna
On the other side of the diamond, the Vols are red hot and just added one of the best prospects in this upcoming draft into the middle of the order, Maui Ahuna. Tony Vitello’s squad has come a long way offensively since dropping the first 2 games of the year in Arizona. Unsurprisingly, Blake Burke is one of the best hitters in the country to this point, slashing .417/.475/.972. Yes, you read that correctly, Blake Burke is slugging .972. Not only has the offense come around, but Frank Anderson’s pitching staff is the best in the country ranking 1st in ERA, WHIP, shutouts, and H/9. They also rank 3rd in the nation in strikeouts and 4th in K/BB ratio.
This will be the first test the Vols have faced as a complete team and should be a good measuring stick at this point in the season. This series should be the most competitive games we have seen at LNS to this point in the year as well.
Game One: Owen Wild (0-1, 3.97 ERA) vs Chase Dollander (1-1, 3.48 ERA)
Game Two: Jacob Rutherford (1-0 8.64 ERA) vs Chase Burns (1-0, 2.45 ERA)
Game Three: TBD vs Drew Beam (2-0, 0.00 ERA)