Tennessee got off to a slow start against Florida Sunday. And having played games into the wee hours of the morning on Friday and Saturday, that was understandable.
The late nights, and Florida starter Carsten Finnvold, with his fastball in the mid-80s and off-speed offerings dipping into the high 60s, yielded a befuddled group of Volunteer bats early on.
Finnvold gave up one hit in the first four frames and struck out four, as the Tennessee hitters chased balls out of the zone and were consistently getting behind in counts. Six Vols fell victim to UF’s change-of-pace lefty before things got rocky for Finnvold in the fifth.
Evan Russell reached first and advanced to second on a throwing error from UF’s third baseman, and Blake Burke, who patiently worked Finnvold to a full count, followed that with a single. Then Tony Vitello made a great call with a Seth Stephenson squeeze bunt, executed perfectly, that scored Russell and broke the scoring seal.
A wild pitch advanced Burke and Stephenson, which left open first for the Gators to walk Jordan Beck to get the lefty-lefty matchup with cleanup hitter Drew Gilbert. Gilbert roped an 0-2 pitch to the leftfield wall, Wyatt Langford bobbled the play over his head and all three runners scored.
COME ON DREW!!! A bases clearing double and the Vols go up 4-0 in the fifth!!— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) May 29, 2022
https://t.co/aj1LZfembt#GBO // #OTH // #BeatFlorida pic.twitter.com/9FqCzPLvAk
Gilbert, who’s never one to hide his emotions, had some words for Florida’s decision to walk Beck to get to him.
https://t.co/lhKUmGyZzO pic.twitter.com/5WqyllsRzm— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) May 29, 2022
Through all this, Camden Sewell was fantastic. He got the start and didn’t allow a run despite giving up six hits. The defense behind him was notably good, especially Trey Lipscomb at the hot corner and Cortland Lawson at shortstop.
The Vols added three more runs in the sixth, with Stephenson and Luc Lipcius hammering back-to-back, run-scoring doubles, and then Gilbert blasted an insurance run outta the park in the top of the ninth.
AN EXCLAMATION POINT!! Drew. Gilbert. Bye bye baseball!— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) May 29, 2022
https://t.co/aj1LZfembt#GBO // #OTH // #BeatFlorida pic.twitter.com/rZcrPCAVM7
The Bat-Flip King reclaimed his crown:
bat— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) May 29, 2022
Florida tried to make things interesting in its final six outs. The eighth was a particular struggle, as the Vols needed three pitchers to get three outs. Both Ben Joyce and midweek starter Zander Sechrist were ineffective — Joyce lasted just 1⁄3 of an inning and gave up a walk, a wild pitch, a home run and two runs, while Sechrist gave up two-straight base hits and didn’t record an out before Vitello pulled him for Kirby Connell.
Connell gave up a run but got the final two outs of the eighth and Redmond Walsh came on for the ninth, but the last three outs didn’t come easy, either. Walsh gave up a run on two consecutive doubles, and then another run scored when Jorel Ortega fumbled the woulda-been final out on a ground ball. One pitch later, UF’s Jud Fabian flew out to foul territory in left for the game’s final out.
The final moment. pic.twitter.com/rU8YEbWppO— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) May 29, 2022
This is the Vols’ first SEC Tournament win since 1995, and Tennessee became the first school ever to win the SEC Tournament in both baseball and basketball in the same season.