This morning the Tennessee Vols baseball team knew they needed to win today or have Auburn or Georgia lose for them to make their way into the SEC tournament. With the Dawgs and Tigers both leading early in their games, Dave Serrano's Volunteers decided to earn their way in themselves.
Down 2-1 in the 3rd inning after Andy Cox allowed two solo home runs, the Vols started getting things rolling. Will Maddox reached on a single, and Christin Stewart got on base thanks to a fielding error. Nick Senzel and Vincent Jackson both followed that up with RBI singles. A hit batter, and a full count walk for Tyler Schultz gave Tennessee the 4-2 lead.
Florida responded in the 5th inning, with two 2-out RBI doubles giving them the 5-4 lead. Taylor Smart led off the Vols in the bottom of the 5th with a walk. AJ Simcox got him home with an RBI single. Tyler Schultz again came up big with a bunt single down the third base line, putting the go ahead runner on 3rd base with one out. Derek Lance singled to left field scoring Simcox and Maddox scored Schultz on a sacrifice fly to give Tennessee the 7-5 lead.
Florida tried to strike back, getting runners on the corners in the 8th inning with 1 out, but Kyle Serrano got a ground ball to second base for an inning ending double play. In the top of the 9th, the Gators got runners on first and second due to a single and a Simcox error with no outs. The Florida batter hit a grounder right to Nick Senzel who managed to tag the runner and throw to first for the double play. A pop fly to Nick Senzel ended the game, and punched Tennessee's ticket to the tournament. Andy Cox went 7 innings, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits. Kyle Serrano and Andrew Lee both went for 1 inning each, both allowing a single hit and and no runs.
Tennessee is now 31-22 on the season, and 12-18 in conference play. This is their best conference record since also going 12-18 in 2010, and best overall record since their 34-25 2007 season.
This will be Tennessee's 13th appearance in the SEC Baseball tournament, where they have a 25-21 record all time and own 3 titles. The Vols have not been to Hoover since Rod Delmonico's last season in 2007, where they were knocked out by Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
Tennessee is the 11 seed, and will play a single elimination game Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. ET against the 6 seed Vanderbilt Commodores. Tennessee did win 2 of 3 games against Vanderbilt earlier this season. If the Vols defeat the Dores, they'll advance to the double elimination portion of the tournament against the 3 seed LSU Tigers, who defeated the Vols in 2 of 3 games this year.