Tennessee completed the 3 game sweep of the Knoxville Regional to advance to their first super regional since 2005. This regional victory carries the Vols into uncharted waters. While Tennessee has played in super regionals before, the #3 Volunteers will host their first super regional in program history.
Tennessee opened the tournament with Wright State on Friday night. The Raiders gave the Vols all they could handle, entering the bottom of the 9th leading 8-5 only needing three outs to advance in the winners bracket. Tennessee, staring down the barrel of the losers bracket, escaped with a win in dramatic fashion thanks to a walk-off grand slam by Drew Gilbert.
Tennessee moved on to face Liberty in the winners bracket, for a place in the regional finals. The Vols opened the game with a leadoff HR by Liam Spence, and the bats started rolling. Tennessee would go on to record 5 HRs in the first 3 innings, taking a 7-0 lead. The Vols notched a NCAA tournament record in the slugfest. Tennessee bacame the first team to hit 5 HRs in a single tournament game. Tennessee would go on to win 9-3, cruising into the finals to await the winner of Liberty/Duke.
The Vols would get a rematch with Liberty in the regional final on Sunday night. Will Helfin and Sean Hunley would be the story for Tennessee. Heflin was excellent through 5.1 innings (4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K), tying his career high for strikeouts. Sean Hunley closed out the game spoiling multiple scoring chances for the Flames, allowing only 1 H 0 R and 5 Ks. Excellent pitching from both teams would produce a low scoring affair, but red-hot Drew Gilbert’s 2-run HR in the bottom of the 5th would turn out to be the game winner for the Vols.
Tennessee awaits the winner of the Eugene, OR regional. The Eugene finale is set for Monday, as LSU forced a winner-take-all matchup with Oregon on Sunday. All eyes will be on Eugene as the Vols prepare to host either the Ducks or the Tigers in next weekend’s super regional. One thing is for sure, a loud, sold-out crowd in Lindsey Nelson Stadium will await the winner of Eugene. Omaha waits patiently for the winner of next weekend’s super regional, and any true fan of college baseball knows that once you get to Omaha, anything can happen!