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Vols cruise by LSU 15-6, sweep the Tigers in Super Regional

Tennessee baseball beat LSU for the fifth time this season and punches its ticket to Omaha for the CWS

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Tennessee offense popped off for 15 (!!!) runs against LSU in the deciding game of the Knoxville Super Regional, and the Vols are headed to Omaha for the College World Series for the first time since 2005.

UT scored at least one run in six of the game’s nine total innings and put up a six-spot in the fifth. That mid-game boom added a touchdown to the previous 5-2 lead and basically turned a close game into a blow out.

The typically-lethal 1-2 batters for Tennessee, Liam Spence and Max Ferguson, struggled going a combined 0-8 from the plate. But Jake Rucker, Jordan Beck and Connor Pavolony carried the offense with a collective eight hits and 10 RBIs.

Rucker, who had two doubles last night in the 4-2 Vols win, struck early with a two-run blast in the first inning (video below) and then touched LSU starter Landon Marceaux again for a solo shot in the third.

Future Major League Baseball right-fielder Jordan Beck, who went a combined 0-8 in the game against Wright State and the first contest with Liberty, has officially emerged from his mini-rut. He went 3-5 today with this three-run banger to deep left field. Watch Beck’s swing here — it’s absolutely beautiful.

Today’s offensive performance was a slump-buster for Evan Russell, too. Russell had notched just two hits post-SEC-Tournament and hadn’t hit a home run since Tennessee’s game against Alabama on May 28th. But fortunately for the Vols, LSU threw him a fastball, and Russell did to this fastball what he does to lots of fastballs: he made it leave the ballpark in a hurry.

UT’s no. 9 hitter, Connor Pavolony, had been struggling since the end of Tennessee’s regular-season SEC schedule, too. He’s accounted for just four hits since that ‘Bama game in late May with three of those coming in the Wright State game. Pav had two hits, three RBIs and three runs scored.

LSU used seven pitchers to get through nine innings with five of those guys going for one inning or less. Marceaux wasn’t as sharp as he’s been most of this season and allowed three runs — two earned — while the next three hurlers LSU tried combined to give up seven runs to the Vols’ bats.

Tennessee skipped senior Will Heflin and started freshman Blade Tidwell, which struck me as a bit odd. But, Tidwell’s been the Sunday starter all year, though he typically pitched in the third game of the series. Since the Vols didn’t play Friday, Tidwell ended up going on Sunday, as usual, but was pitching in the second game of this Super Regional in an atypical spot based on the normal rotation for the year.

Whatever — that was really wordy, but Tidwell got the ball in a series-clinching situation and wasn’t exactly his best. His fastball topped out at 97, from what I saw, but his secondary breaking-pitch waxed and waned in effectiveness. All-in-all, Tidwell gave up six runs (tied for his season-worst) and seven hits while striking out seven and walking nobody. Here’s one of his better curves from the game — an 82-mph ball that snapped off at the plate and ended the inning for LSU.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to be critical. At the end of the day, Tidwell surrendered fewer runs than his offensive provided and gave the Vols seven innings of work. I’ll take it.

Today’s win made for a Tennessee sweep against LSU in the Knoxville Super Regional and counted for the fifth dub against the Tigers this year in five tries.

UT heads to Omaha for the College World Series for the first time in 15-ish years. That ‘05 Vols team featured eventual MLBers like Julio Borbon, Luke Hochevar, Chase Headley and JP Arencibia.

The CWS starts June 19th and lasts, give-or-take, 10 days. As of this writing, Vanderbilt and Stanford are the only two other teams that have guaranteed their spot in Omaha.