On Friday evening, the #3 Tennessee Volunteers hosted the Wright State Raiders in the second game of the Knoxville Regional Opening Round. With #3 Tennessee coming off of an outstanding SEC Tournament run and Wright State coming into the weekend with a 12-game winning streak and the highest batting average in the nation, the game was expected to be a battle from the top of the 1st to the bottom of the 9th.
With Chad Dallas starting on the mound for the Volunteers, the Raiders got onto the board early in the top of the 1st with Tyler Black’s 2-run homer to right field. With the Raiders leading 2-0 in the bottom of the 2nd, Vols’ Luc Lipcius hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the 2nd to bring the game 2-1. The Raiders could not hold onto their lead into the bottom of the 2nd due to a 2-run homer by Vols’ catcher Connor Pavolony and a solo homer by Vols’ second baseman Max Ferguson. With a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the 3rd, the Vols’ bats stayed hot as Luc Lipcius had his second hit of the game, doubling to left field and scoring another run at the plate extending the Vols’ lead over the Radier to 5-2.
Expected to be an exciting offensive game, Tyler Black proved it right when he hit his second homerun of the game to bring the Raiders one closer and leaving the 4th inning trailing the Vols 5-3. The Raiders shrunk the Vols’ lead to one when Alex Alders homered to center field, leaving the score at 5-4.
While looking to extend their lead each at time at the plate, the Vols left 3 runners stranded in scoring position. The Raiders, however, stepped up in the top of the 7th with two singles followed by a 2-run homer to left center by Quincy Hamilton. With the Raiders now leading 7-5, the Vols needed their bats to come back to life, but had a quick time at the plate with three consecutive outs. The wind really left some Tennessee fans’ sails when the Raiders gained another insurance run in the top of the 8th with Alex Alders hitting his second homer of the game to right center, putting Wright State ahead 8-5 all the way into the bottom of the 9th inning.
The Vols entered the 9th inning scoreless since the 3rd, but have been known for late rallies and walk-off wins. With Lindsey Nelson Stadium cheering on the Vols, Pavolony reached on an infield single, Ferguson singled to center, and All-American Jake Rucker walked to load the bases for clean-up hitter Drew Gilbert. After swinging and missing on the first pitch, Gilbert gave Lindsey Nelson Stadium exactly what it was looking for when he unloaded on a 74 mph curveball, sending it into orbit for his second grand slam of the season and his second walk-off of the season. The Vols defeated the Raiders 9-8 after a very hard fought game by both teams. Both teams had a great day at the plate, which may make the rest of the weekend very interesting to watch.
Saturday’s elimination game between Duke and Wright State will be played at 12:00 ET, followed by both 1-0 teams, Liberty and Tennessee, playing at 6:00 PM. After only one day of the Knoxville Regional, all teams have demonstrated that they are going to fight hard in the attempt to advance.