In the final series of the regular season, the Tennessee Volunteers were tasked with a trip to South Carolina to face the No. 21 Gamecocks. Tennessee, the nation’s No. 4 team, entered the weekend as the leader in the SEC East by a half game over Vanderbilt.
They needed to take care of business tonight to keep control of that race, and that’s exactly what they were able to do on Thursday night in Columbia.
It took a couple of innings for the scoring to get rolling in this one, but the Tennessee bats came alive in the third and fourth innings. Max Ferguson drove in the first run of the game in the top of the third with a sacrifice fly, and then the floodgates opened in the fourth.
Six Tennessee runs went on the board as the Vols took a 7-0 lead. Luc Lipcius hit a two-run homer to kick the inning off, and then Pete Derkay drove in Jordan Beck with a double. Connor Pavolony then knocked in Derkay, while Ferguson hit the second homerun of the inning to put the cherry on top.
The result was a big lead for Tennessee’s ace Chad Dallas, who didn’t surrender a hit until the fourth inning. That hit, however, led to a two-run homerun off the bat of Wes Clarke, cutting the lead to 7-2 after four innings.
Pitching would dominate the next few innings, as Dallas settled back in and South Carolina reliever John Gilreath silenced the Volunteers.
Dallas surrendered two hits to the Gamecocks in the bottom of the seventh, but he was able to manufacture two ground balls to dance out of danger and keep the score at 7-2. He would not escape danger in the eighth, however. Dallas hit a batter, and then Andrew Eyster took him deep to dead center. It was a two-run shot to slice the lead down to 7-4.
Dallas was pulled after striking out the next batter, as Tony Vitello turned to Sean Hunley, who was able to close out the inning.
Drew Gilbert added an insurance run for Tennessee in the top of the ninth, narrowly missing out on a homerun. It was an RBI triple instead, which scored Jake Rucker to make it an 8-4 game. Evan Russell then doubled, and Luc Lipcius singled, each picking up an RBI.
The new score was 10-4, and this one was done. Hunley finished off the Gamecocks, as Tennessee picked up win No. 41 on the year.
Tennessee and South Carolina will play game two on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and SEC Network+ (streaming only) will have the broadcast.