A two-out double from Luc Lipcius kicked off Tennessee’s three-run eighth inning, and three innings of shut-out relief from Blade Tidwell helped hold that late-gained lead, as the Vols took game two from Mississippi State 4-3.
The Vols kicked off the game with two hits in the first — a Lipcius single and a Gilbert double — but ended up stranding both runners and accrued just two more hits through the next six frames.
After a clean first inning, Tennessee starter Chase Burns gave up a solo home run in the bottom of the second to State’s four-hole hitter Hunter Hines and gave up base runners in the third, fourth and fifth innings before finally getting three-straight outs again in the sixth. Burns successfully navigated all that traffic unscathed, other than the one run in the second, until the seventh frame when he gave up three consecutive base hits.
The third of which was a bases-clearing double from right fielder Kellum Clark that spelled the ends of Burns’ outing. That, plus the early home run, gave MSU a 3-1 lead when Vitello brought in Tidwell.
Tennessee’s sophomore righty — and possible first-round pick in the next MLB Draft — came on in relief and looked as good as he has all season. He struck out the first three batters he faced to finish out the seventh inning and didn’t allow a hit or a walk the rest of the game.
Lipcius’ double in the top of the eight came after Cortland Lawson and Seth Stephenson had flied out. Tennessee’s ability to drive in runs with two outs this season has been quite the recurring theme — heck, even in last night’s beatdown, the fellas drove in seven runs on their final outs of the respective innings.
Tonight, it was Jordan Beck driving in Luc with a single, and Drew Gilbert taking the first pitch of his at bat deep over the left-field fence for his eighth home run of the year and the two, game-winning runs.
Back to Blade: he’s been somewhat erratic since returning from his early-season injury. There’s been a couple games when he’s struggled with his control, and in others he’s just been hit hard. But tonight, he had everything working. The breaking pitch was snapping, and he was locating the fastball confidently. Here’s the final pitch of the game: a 99 MPH fastball, right where Russell wanted it.
With the win, Tennessee secured another series victory. I reckon Drew Beam will start tomorrow, though I’m unsure what the strategy with the pitchers will be, given that the SEC Tournament starts next Wednesday. At 5:30 PM (ET), Tennessee will play the winner of No. 8 seed/ No. 9 seed matchup.