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College World Series: Tennessee eliminated after loss to Texas

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Tennessee v Texas Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

After surprising opening losses in the College World Series, two top five teams faced elimination on Tuesday afternoon in Omaha. Tennessee and Texas — the No. 3 and No. 2 national seeds in the NCAA Tournament — met with everything on the line.

And it was a wild one, at least early on.

Tennessee sent freshman Blade Tidwell to the mound, while Texas tapped Tristan Stevens. The Tennessee bats got to Stevens early and often.

The top of the second got rolling with a Drew Gilbert single, followed by a Luc Lipcius walk. Jordan Beck quickly knocked in Gilbert to earn a 1-0 lead. With runners on second and third, Pete Derkay’s weak bouncer was enough to send home Lipcius, adding another early run to the Tennessee tally.

Stevens was able to close out the inning by striking out Connor Pavolony, but the early damage was done, as the Volunteers established a 2-0 lead.

However, Tidwell ran into trouble of his own in the bottom half. A walk and a single had Texas ready to answer with two runners aboard. Following a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position, Tidwell came up with a huge strikeout for the second out. But Eric Kennedy battled to a full count, then connected for a three-run homerun to give the Longhorns the lead at 3-2.

The Vols weren’t ready to quiet down just yet though. Tennessee loaded the bases and looked poised for a big inning, but the Longhorns turned a Drew Gilbert dribbler into a double play, making the play at the plate and at first base. Stevens got a pop fly after that, escaping the inning without any damage.

Texas capitalized on a walk and an error to add another run in the third, bringing us to a 4-2 score after three innings.

Once again, Tennessee put the pressure on Stevens. A Jordan Beck walk was followed by a Pete Derkay single to move Beck to third. Pavolony knocked him in with a single, which spelled the end of Stevens’ day.

Texas brought in Tanner Witt, who surrendered an RBI single to Liam Spence to tie the game. Witt did get his ground ball for the double play after that, but the Volunteers had already pulled even at 4-4.

Tennessee pulled Tidwell to start the bottom of the 4th, who gave up four runs on just two hits. Tony Vitello turned to Sean Hunley, who appeared uncomfortable from the start. A couple of walks put Texas in business, and Silas Ardoin drove in both. It was a controversial call at the plate, but ultimately ruled safe after replay. The Longhorns kept rocking Hunley, tacking on single after single.

Redmond Walsh was the next pitcher in for Tennessee with two more runners in scoring position for the Longhorns. He was able to get a ground ball to end the inning, but the Texas lead was now 7-4.

Finally, after a wild first half of the game, both sides settled in a bit. Obviously that wasn’t good news for Tennessee, which now trailed once again. Reliever Tanner Witt had shut down the Vols over the next few innings, as the Longhorns added an insurance run in the sixth on a wild pitch.

The sixth, seventh and eighth came and passed, and the Tennessee offense was silent.

Jordan Beck got the 9th started with an infield single, but the Volunteers couldn’t do anything with it. Witt closed out his masterful performance to secure a Texas win, 8-4.

Tennessee’s season ends here, with an 0-2 showing in Omaha. Texas advances to face the loser of Virginia-Mississippi State in another elimination game on Thursday.