Tennessee punches ticket to College World Series
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT Athletics) – An offensive explosion highlighted by six total home runs and a six-run fifth inning led No. 2 Tennessee to a 15-6 win over No. 14 LSU Sunday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, earning the Vols a trip to the College World Series for the first time in 16 years.
The Vols’ trip to Omaha for the College World Series marks just the fifth time in program history and first time since 2005. The victory also gives UT 50 wins on the season—just the third time in program history that Tennessee has reached that plateau and first time since 1995.
Tennessee’s 15-run output stands as its most ever in a super regional game. The Vols’ NCAA Tournament program record six home runs came from five different players, as Jake Rucker (two), Connor Pavolony, Drew Gilbert, Jordan Beck and Evan Russell all went deep.
Rucker and Beck had three hits apiece to lead UT offensively. The duo also had four and three RBIs, respectively. Russell and Pavolony each contributed two hits on the afternoon.
On the mound for Tennessee, starter Blade Tidwell earned his 10th win of the season. Tidwell gave up seven hits on the afternoon, four of which came during the final two innings of his seven-inning outing.
Sunday’s scoring got off to a quick start, as both teams traded home runs in the first inning. Playing as the visiting team, Tennessee struck first in the top of the first inning with a two-run shot by Rucker to left center field. The Tigers quickly responded with a home run of their own, a solo shot from Dylan Crews.
After a scoreless second inning for both teams, Rucker and Crews each hit their second homers of the day in the third inning, exchanging solo shots.
Entering the fourth with a one-run lead, the Vols broke the game open over the next two innings, scoring two runs in the fourth and tacking on six more during an explosive fifth inning.
In the fourth, it was Pavolony that got Tennessee on the board with a two-run homer that scored Beck after he lead off with a single.
In the decisive fifth inning, Gilbert and Beck both homered, while Liam Spence and Rucker also drove in runs. The Tigers made two pitching changes during the inning in an effort to stop the Vols’ offensive onslaught.
LSU was able to add four runs during the sixth and seventh innings, but Tennessee responded by adding on four more runs of its own in the eighth and ninth innings to quell any hope of a comeback for the Tigers.
TIGERS TAMED: Between the teams’ three-game regular season series and this weekend’s Super Regional, Tennessee combined to go 5-0 against LSU this season. It marks just the fifth time in program history that the Vols have defeated the same team five times in one season and the first time since 1984 that LSU has lost to the same team five times in one season.
ANOTHER MULTI-HOME RUN PERFORMANCE: With Jake Rucker’s two-home run performance against the Tigers, seven different Tennessee players now have at least one game of multiple jacks this season. The Vols have 11 total occurrences of one player hitting multiple home runs in a single game this season.
DOUBLE-DIGIT WINS: Earning his 10th win of the season Sunday, Blade Tidwell became Tennessee’s second pitcher to reach double-digit wins this season, joining Chad Dallas (11 wins).
It marks the third time in program history and first time since 2005 that the Vols have two pitchers with 10 or more wins apiece. In 2005, Luke Hochevar (15) and James Adkins (10) both reached double digit wins, while in 1995, R.A. Dickey (14) and Ryan Meyers (10) accomplished the feat.