After a huge series win against the Florida Gators, the Tennessee Volunteers (36-17, 12-15) couldn’t afford any slip-ups against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (22-29, 9-18) on Tuesday night.
Even though it took them a minute to wake up, the Vols were able to take advantage of six runs in the fifth inning en route to a 15-10 win and are now one step closer to a NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Vols recored 15 hits on the night to go along with their 15 runs. Tuesday’s win also pushed their record to 13-1 in midweek games.
Jay Charleston led the way for the Vols, finishing 3-of-5 that included one double, three RBIs, and three runs scored. He also added five stolen bases in what was an extremely impressive performance.
But things didn’t start off so well for the Vols. On the very first pitch of the game, Anthony Carrera took Camden Sewell deep over the left field wall for the first home run - and score - of the game. Tennessee couldn’t get anything done on offense, taking a 1-2-3 punch in the gut in the bottom of the first inning.
Neither team could get anything done in the second inning, but Carrera made light work of Sewell again in the top of the third, homering for the second time and giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
Connor Pavolony continued his momentum from Sunday’s contest, doubling to center field and sending Ricky Martinez home to cut the lead to 2-1. Both Andre Lipcius and Charleston were able to reach base just in time for Alerick Soularie’s at-bat.
Soularie didn’t disappoint. He reached first off a single down the right sideline, while driving in Charleston. The game was now tied 2-2 and the Vols had two runners left on base.
However, Tennessee couldn’t take advantage of the situation and left both players on the bags.
Sewell was replaced by Chase Silseth in the top of the fourth, but the Vols’ pitching woes continued. Silseth was only on his 11th pitch of the game before JD Funk blasted a three-run homer to put Tech back in front, 5-2.
But Sileth was able to finish strong and Jake Rucker was able to score in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to 5-3.
Tennessee was able to figure out Tech’s Caleb Morgan in the top of the fifth and it showed as two of the first three batters were able to score and tie the game up 5-5. It was Lipcius and Charleston behind the wheel again, as both worked the bags - Lipcius stole one base; Charleston stole two - and were driven home by Soularie’s second hit of the game.
That prompted the Eagles’ first pitching change of the game. Thomas Saliba replaced Caleb Morgan, who finished with six runs allowed, six hits, and one strikeout in four innings.
Taliba’s reign was short-lived, to say the least. He allowed Evan Russell, Rucker, and Zach Daniels to reach base. Russell and Rucker both scored thanks to Daniels’ center field single, which gave the Vols a 7-5 lead - their first of the game.
Taliba was immediately relieved by redshirt freshman Daniel Holley, who allowed two runs right off the bat due to some wild pitches and another Pavolony hit.
The Vols now led 9-5 and were on fire. Could the freshman pull his team out of this jam?
He certainly did, retiring the next two batters, but the damage had already been done. Tennessee scored six runs off of five hits and dispatched three pitchers in just one half inning.
The Eagles were far from finished and scored a run of their own off a Cody Littlejohn single that drove in Funk. Outside of Carrera’s two home runs, Funk was arguably the best offensive player on the night. He finished 2-of-5 with one home run, three RBIs, and held a 1.000 slug percentage.
Tennessee couldn’t respond and even worse, left three runners on base to close out the sixth inning. Tech then made another pitching change, subbing in Grant Phillips for Holley.
Tech couldn’t get anything done with their next at-bat, but the Vols did. A 9-6 lead soon turned into a 13-6 lead after Charleston brought both Pavolony and Justin Ammons home off a double. Lipcius then drilled his 15th home run of the season to earn runs 12 and 13.
The Eagles made things a bit interesting in the eighth, scoring three runs to pull with 13-10, but the Vols got right back to business and scored two more runs to put the game on ice at 15-10.
Tennessee will now finish out the regular season against the 15th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels starting Thursday night. It’s integral that the Vols get at least one win in this series if they want a shot at making the NCAA Tournament.
First pitch is scheduled for 7PM EST. Thursday’s and Saturday’s matchups will be broadcasted on the SEC Network and Friday’s matchup can be streamed on the SEC Network + / WatchESPN app.