Following a controversial loss to Alabama on Wednesday to open the SEC Tournament, Tennessee was tasked with picking up the pieces at 10:30 the next morning against No. 3 seed Mississippi State in an elimination game.
Tony Vitello turned to his ace Chad Dallas, who faced Mississippi State starter Christian MacLeod with each team’s SEC Tournament life on the line.
Hot bats on both sides to start, but a missed opportunity for Mississippi State
Tennessee made MacLeod pay for a couple of early mistakes in the bottom of the 2nd inning. After a couple of walks, Pete Derkay sent one over the fence to give Tennessee an early 3-0 lead. Connor Pavolony then ripped a double, and Liam Spence drove him in on a base hit.
Through two innings, the Volunteers were enjoying a 4-0 advantage, but that didn’t last long.
The Bulldogs cashed in on a walk and a single, as Tanner Allen slapped one the other way to drive in a run in the top of the 3rd. Mississippi State worked the bases loaded with a big chance to pull back even, but Dallas came up with a huge strikeout to dance out of danger.
Tennessee pours it on
Jordan Beck got that run right back with a solo shot to move us to a 5-1 score.
Tennessee came back with three straight singles in the bottom of the 5th to score another run, then added another on a wild throw into the outfield on a steal attempt. It was Drew Gilbert picking up the RBI in the inning, driving home Liam Spence.
The Volunteers now held a commanding 7-1 lead as Chad Dallas kept chugging along.
Tennessee kept stringing hits together in the bottom of the 6th, allowing Max Ferguson to drive in another run on yet another single to move the score to 8-1.
Dallas lasted 6.1 innings, exiting in the 7th inning more than in line for the win. In total, he gave up six hits and one run, striking out two on the day.
The Vols carried their 8-2 lead into the bottom of the 8th, where the floodgates opened once again. Mississippi State closer Landon Sims was rocked, as Tennessee loaded the bases. Spence was then walked, Ferguson doubled, and then Gilbert doubled.
That was the final nail. Tennessee run ruled Mississippi State — a projected national seed — 12-2.
The Volunteers move on to Friday, awaiting the loser of the Alabama-Florida matchup later today.