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Tigers Rally to Down Vols 5-4 in the SEC Tournament

The Vols could not maintain their four run lead late in the game.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee had an opportunity to make the double elimination stage of the SEC Tournament if they could manage to defeat the 7th ranked LSU Tigers in Hoover.  The Vols built a four run lead but were unable to hold on to it as LSU rallied and walked off in the ninth.  This is the third straight season the Vols managed to make it to Hoover only to fall in the single elimination round.

Tennessee took the early lead in the fourth after Chris Hall, who singled and stole second, was brought home on an RBI single by Jordan Rodgers.  Rodgers was thrown out at second but not until after Hall scored.  Tennessee added another run in the fifth after an RBI single from Max Bartlett, who brought home Tyler Schultz who bunted to reach first and stole second.  LSU had two chances to score in the bottom of the fifth, as a walk and single put runners on the corners with one out.  A safety squeeze failed as Jordan Rodgers threw out the runner at the plate.  The next LSU batter drilled a single to center but Brodie Leftridge gunned down another LSU runner at home.

The Vols put together a nice sixth inning, as Chris Hall doubled to start the frame and Nick Senzel added a single of his own.  Senzel stole second before Jackson's RBI ground out.  Jordan Rodgers drew a walk on a wild pitch that scored Senzel.  A Santiago walk and double steal put two more in scoring position but two strikeouts ended the top of the inning.

Will Neely had a great start, going six innings with five hits, one walk, three strikeouts, and one run allowed.  That run was the first batter of the seventh who reached on a double.  Andy Cox entered the game and got a fly out before giving up an RBI double.  He followed that up with a ground out before giving up an RBI single to center.  Aaron Soto then entered and gave up a single and walk to put two on.  A third batter would reach on Soto, driving a single to left field which scored one Tiger but a play at the plate on the second base runner ended the frame.

Max Bartlett would be the only base runner for the Vols through the final two innings, as he reached on an error in the ninth.  The Vols would cling to their 4-3 lead until the bottom of the final frame when Hunter Martin gave up a lead off home run.  He followed that up with a walk before getting his first out on a sacrifice bunt.  The next LSU batter was intentionally walked to set up the double play but a wild pitch allowed runners to reach the corners.  Another intentional walk followed to load the bases before an LSU walk off RBI single to left.

With a final record of 29-28 the Vols have put together their second winning season under Coach Serrano (2014: 31-23).  They have also put together three straight SEC Tournament appearances.  Serrano's contract is up and we will have to wait and see if he is retained.  Tennessee will be in heavy rebuilding mode next season as they lose seniors Tyler Schultz, Andy Cox, Jared Pruett, Derek Lance, Vincent Jackson, Chris Hall, Jeff Moberg and Steven Kane.  The Vols can also lose quite a few juniors to the MLB draft with Nick Senzel, Jordan Rodgers, and Kyle Serrano among those eligible.