The 12th ranked Tennessee Volunteers baseball (18-4, 2-1) team hosted its first SEC opponent at Lindsey Nelson Stadium over the weekend when the 22nd ranked LSU Tigers (16-5, 1-2) came to town. The Tigers’ pair of losses came over last weekend when the team dropped two of the three to the third ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs. Tennessee came into the series 7-1 in its last eight games.
Friday night’s game one saw Chad Dallas take to the mound in an effort to defeat the Tigers. Dallas (4-0) would give Tennessee seven strong innings, allowing five hits, one run, one walk, and an excellent 11 punch-outs. Sean Hunley would enter for the final two innings and record his second save of the season.
Although LSU would fall short in this game, it was the Tigers who got the scoring started with a second inning solo home run off the bat of Gavin Dugas, propelling LSU to a short-lived 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third inning, a Jake Rucker triple would score Liam Spence, knotting the game at 1-1. Later in the same inning, a passed ball snuck its way past catcher Hayden Travinski, enabling Rucker to scurry home on the play, giving the Volunteers their first lead of the night, 2-1.
The game remained quiet over the next several innings, but in the seventh, Tennessee gave itself a little breathing room with an insurance run; Drew Gilbert doubled into the right-center gap, prompting Pete Derkay to score and pushing the Vols ahead, 3-1.
That’s where the final score would stand in a game which only lasted two hours and 40 minutes. In the process, Tennessee improved its record to 19-4 overall and 3-1 in-conference.
Game two was slated for a 6:00 pm start time Saturday night, but thanks to an evolving weather situation wouldn’t begin for 45 minutes. Once the game finally did get underway, Will Heflin got the start for Tennessee. He’d contribute 3.1 innings, allowing six hits and two runs. Kirby Connell made an appearance, going 2.2 innings and not allowing a run as his impressive season continues. Sean Hunley would ultimately secure the win after pitching 0.1 innings in relief – it was his third win of the season.
LSU got the scoring started in the first inning on a Tre Morgan home run, putting the Tigers ahead 1-0. In the top of the third, LSU would add another on an RBI single to centerfield, furthering their lead 2-0.
In the bottom of the third, Evan Russell homered (2) to tie the game at two-all.
Regaining the lead in the fifth, the Tigers’ Dugas grounded out but brought in a run in the process, 3-2.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Russell connected once again, launching a ball over the left field wall for his second home run of the game, and giving Tennessee the lead 4-3. In the same inning, a hit by pitch would bring in another run, followed by a walk to plate one more. Going into the sixth, it was 6-3 Tennessee.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Russell homered (4) yet again, extending the Volunteers’ lead to 7-3.
Over the next two innings, LSU would score five runs to take the lead away from Tennessee, making it an 8-7 game. A double, single, and a pair of home runs put the Tigers in the driver’s seat for the time being.
In the top of the ninth, bad weather reared its ugly head again, causing the game to be paused and resumed the following day.
Once play did resume on Sunday, Drew Gilbert doubled and scored Christian Scott in the process to knot the game up during crunch time, 8-8.
That prompted the game to go into extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th, it was Gilbert playing hero once again when he homered (6) to give the Volunteers the walk-off win, 9-8.
With the win, Tennessee improved to 20-4 overall and 4-1 in-conference.
The final game of the series was another exciting one. For a mid-afternoon start, Tennessee sent Blade Tidwell to the mound. He’d turn in 5.2 strong innings, allowing eight hits and two runs to go along with seven strikeouts. Sean Hunley would come on in relief and earn his fourth win of the season (4-0) by pitching 2.1 innings, allowing only a single hit and not giving up anything in the run column.
Gilbert started the scoring day in the first inning when a fielder’s choice enabled Derkay to score on a play that resulted in Rucker being out at second.
In the third inning, Beck grounded out to second, scoring Spence in the process and propelling Tennessee to a 2-0 lead.
LSU got on the board with a Cade Beloso solo home run to bring the Tigers within one, 2-1.
In the top of the sixth, a Jordan Thompson singled scored a run, knotting the game at 2-2.
With a tied ballgame, Tennessee had an opportunity to win the game Luc Lipcius at the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning (of a shortened game). The bases were loaded for Lipcius, who was able to barely deposit a ball in the centerfield grass, prompting Spence to cross the plate as the winning run, thus securing an in-conference sweep against a ranked opponent.
Tennessee improved to 21-4 overall and 5-1 in-conference with the sweep of the Tigers. The Vols are 10-1 in their last 11 games. The next game will be played Tuesday night against the Western Carolina Catamounts at 6:30 in Knoxville. Next weekend, SEC play will ramp up again when the Volunteers head to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide. Those games will start at 7:00 (Friday and Saturday) and at noon (Sunday).