The sixth ranked Tennessee Volunteers baseball team (22-4, 5-1) headed to Tuscaloosa over the weekend to take on the unranked Alabama Crimson Tide (15-9, 1-5). The series kicked off Friday night with the Tide willing a way to win.
In game one, the Vols sent Chad Dallas to the mound. He would turn in 3.2 innings pitched, allowing three runs on five hits, two walks, while striking out six. Dallas turned the ball over the Sean Hunley (4-1), who would be tagged with the loss after pitching 1.1 innings, allowing two hits and three runs. Kirby Connell made an appearance, pitching the last three innings for the Tennessee cause and allowing one run to cross the plate.
The two teams did their scoring in bunches. First, it was Tennessee on the board with a Luc Lipcius home run (4) in the second inning, pushing the Vols ahead early, 1-0.
In the third inning, Jake Rucker doubled down the line and plated Liam Spence. Later, Drew Gilbert singled and brought in Rucker. To conclude the inning, Jordan Beck doubled to right-center and score Gilbert. By the end of the inning, Tennessee had a 4-0 lead.
Then it was Alabama’s turn. Off of a hit by pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tide got their first run. A subsequent fielder’s choice in the same inning netted another run, before a single scored the final tally of the inning. By the end of the fourth, Alabama had closed the gap to a 4-3 game.
Another trio of runs came in during the fifth inning. A two-run homer pushed Alabama ahead before a sacrifice fly added another, giving Alabama a 6-4 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, a solo home run added a bit of insurance for the Tide, helping to secure a 7-4 win.
In a bid to even up the series, Will Heflin was first to the mound for Tennessee. He managed 5.2 innings well for the Vols, allowing six hits, but only one run. Camden Sewell (1-0) would ultimately earn the win after his 3.2 innings of work in which he allowed only one hit, and held Alabama scoreless.
Despite that, the first run of the game – and the only one for quite some time – was a ‘Bama home run, when Hamiter launched a ball over the right field wall, propelling the Tide into a 1-0 lead in the middle innings.
Tennessee wouldn’t find the scoreboard until the top of the seventh inning. Logan Steenstra was able to score off a Tide throwing error (on a failed pickoff attempt), thus knotting the game at 1-1. In that same inning, a Beck sacrifice fly put Tennessee ahead before a Connor Pavolony single plated a pair. Heading into the seventh inning stretch, the Vols had pulled ahead 4-1.
Alabama would make it a game, however, when a run was able to score off an error in the bottom of the inning, cutting the Tennessee lead down to two.
In the bottom of the eighth, a Williamson single cut the lead to one before another single brought the game even, 4-4.
A scoreless ninth and 10th inning saw this game move into the 11th. That’s when the Vols were able to push across a host of runs, beginning with a bases loaded walk coaxed out by Evan Russell to break the 4-4 tie. A Steenstra sacrifice fly, then a Pete Derkay single made it 7-4. Later, when Derkay was out caught stealing, Russell scored on the play, giving Tennessee the 8-4 advantage. Alabama was held scoreless in the bottom half and the Vols went on to take game two.
The two teams entered the rubbermatch Sunday afternoon with sights on taking the series. The Vols would send Blade Tidwell (4-1) to the mound, and he would ultimately win his fourth game of the season. Tidwell turned in 5.1 innings pitched, giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and a walk. Connell also made a three inning appearance, allowing three runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk. Sean Hunley earned the save (3) on 0.2 innings pitched.
Tennessee opened up the scoring on a Beck single, scoring Spence. In that same inning, Lipcius added another single and plated a pair in the process. Heading into the bottom of the opening frame, Tennessee led 3-0.
In the bottom half of the inning, Alabama’s Wilson homered to get one back before Reeves doubled and scored two, knotting the game at 3-3.
In the top of the third inning, Lipcius walked with the bases loaded, before a Pavolony double play would bring in a second run in the inning, 5-3 Tennessee.
In the bottom half, Denton hit a sacrifice fly and pulled Alabama within one.
Fast forward another half inning, Gilbert walked with the bases loaded, just as Lipcius did the inning prior, and added to the Tennessee advantage.
A fourth inning Diodati homer brought the Tide back within a run.
Over the next three innings, Tennessee would add to their lead. Spence singled in Steenstra in the sixth; Max Ferguson hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Beck; then, in the eighth, Beck singled in Ethan Payne. Heading into the bottom of the eighth, it was 9-5 Tennessee.
Alabama would get two in the eighth off a Praytor home run, bringing the game to 9-7. In the bottom of the ninth, a Denton ground out would score another, but the Tide comeback fell just short, with Tennessee securing a 9-8 win.
With the win, Tennessee improved to 24-5 overall and 7-2 in-conference. The season continues Tuesday afternoon when the Eastern Kentucky Colonels to reprise their role from a couple weeks earlier in which the Volunteers earned a 13-5 victory. Beginning April 9, Tennessee will host the 13th Florida Gators for a three-game weekend series at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville.