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Vols fall to Commodores 3-2 in SEC Tournament

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Four straight innings with out a hit, and a bizarre 9th inning, doomed the Vols.

Justin K. Aller

Tennessee came close to tying up the game in the 9th and extending the ballgame, but a fielder's choice and pick off ended the Vols' hopes.  Tennessee now heads home to Knoxville to await the NCAA tournament selection to see if they are one of the 64 teams included in the field.

Vanderbilt got off to a fast start, scoring on their third single of the first inning with two outs.  They added to their lead on a throwing error by Tyler Schultz, whose throw sailed into center field while trying to throw out Vince Conde as he was stealing second, which allowed a second Commodore to score.

Tennessee responded in the second inning, with a Nick Senzel single and stolen base.  He was sacrificed to third, and scored on a Vincent Jackson single.  Schultz and Derek Lance added singles of their own, with Jackson scoring on the latter.  A throwing error put the Vols on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, but a fly ball ended the inning.  

Vandy responded with a lead-off triple in the bottom of the second, and an RBI groundout to bring him home and retake the 3-2 lead.  Senzel singled again in the top of the third, but was thrown out at 2nd to end the inning.  He would be the last Vol to get a hit until Will Maddox in the eighth inning.  During that span, only one Volunteer reached base (on a walk) and eleven were sit down in a row.  

Nick Senzel led off the ninth inning with a double.  Things then went bizarre very quickly after the hit, with Senzel advancing to third via a balk the Vandy pitcher when he dropped the ball on the mound.  Taylor Smart followed that up with a grounder right down the third base line, and Senzel was tagged out before he could get back to the bag.  Smart was then picked off at first, and Vincent Jackson struck out to end the game.  The Vols are now 25-22 all time in the SEC tournament.

Tennessee falls to 31-23 on the season, and now waits to see if they will be included in the NCAA tournament.  The Vols have wins against #7 Florida (1-2), #8 LSU (1-2 on the road), #10 Vanderbilt (2-2), #17 Mississippi State (1-2 on the road), #21 Arizona State (2-1 on the road), and #24 Alabama (1-2) as well as Kentucky (2-1) and a good UNLV team (3-0).

Even if the season is over for the Vols and they are passed over by the selection committee, this season should be viewed as a success.  They stated the season with the longest winning streak in school history, and they fought their way to the SEC Tournament for the first time since Rod Delmonico's final season in 2007.  The Vols look good for next year, and Dave Serrano seems to be rebuilding the program from the tumultuous Raleigh years.  They lose five seniors from this team: Taylor smart, Scott Price, Nick Williams, Dalton Saberhagen, and Pierce Bily.  Assuming none of the juniors on the team leave after the draft, the Vols will be returning 78% of their hits, 76% of their RBIs, and 88% of their stolen bases; as well as 81% of their innings pitched and 75% of their starts pitching wise.

After all that this program has been through the past decade, from the highs of Omaha in the College World Series in 2005, to the lows of Raleigh's 7-23 SEC campaign in 2011, this team is one to be proud of.  They fought until the very end, defeating a top 10 team to earn their way to Hoover, and fought to the wire against another top NCAA tournament bound team.  The bounces went against them at the end, but they put themselves in the position to tie up the game and possibly win it. They should be remembered as the team that took the first step in rebuilding the program back to greatness.