The Tennessee baseball team had some of the Volunteer faithful sweating on Saturday evening. In the bottom of the third, the Campbell Camels plated four runs off the SEC Pitcher of the Year, Chase Dollander, and the Vols trailed in a game for just the 13th time this season.
Then in the next half inning, a Drew Gilbert double turned into a run thanks to a Trey Lipscomb double before Jorel Ortega took a 2-2 pitch deep to left field for a home run.
The Vols added four more runs in the fifth, three of which came off the bat of Gilbert. This spurt was kicked off by Luc Lipcius, which is something we’ve seen a lot of this season. With two outs, Lipcius took his 57th walk of the season, which tied him for the 6th-most in the country, and Jordan Beck singled to set the stage for Gilbert’s lead-reclaiming blast.
The Campbell pitcher had Gilbert in an 0-2 hole, as he’d thrown two nice curveballs to get ahead in the count. I thought he’d go high fastball for the finish, but he went back to the well, and Gilbert made him pay with his 12th dinger of the season.
Brief aside: number of Gilbert home runs from the start of the season, 2/18, through 5/7 (78 days): four.
Number of Gilbert home runs from 5/10 through 6/5 (26 days): eight.
The Vols added one more run, after Lipscomb got hit with a pitch, stole second and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Ortega singled him in to make it a 6-4 game.
Kirby Connell had come in for Dollander with two outs in the third, and he had his longest outing of the season. He tossed three scoreless innings from the fourth to the sixth but gave up a two-run homer in the seventh that cut Tennessee’s lead back to just one run.
Vitello brought in Friday starter Chase Burns, who plunked the first batter he faced in the head with a 96-MPH fastball. He gave up a single to the next hitter, who subsequently stole second. Vitello elected to intentionally walk leadoff hitter Jerrod Belbin, after Burns got behind 3-1 in the count.
With the bases loaded and the one-run lead on life support, Burns turned in maybe the most important strike out of the season, to this point, with a 96 MPH, inside fastball. Check out how pumped Charlie Taylor is after the swing-and-miss.
The Vols bumped the lead back out to two runs in the top of the eighth off a Blake Burke MISSILE over the left-center fence.
The Camels weren’t going quietly — in the bottom half of the eighth, cleanup hitter Connor Denning took Burns deep to half the Vols’ lead back to one run.
In the ninth, hoping for an insurance run, Tennessee piled on four more runs to put down the Camels for good. Christian Moore’s two-out single scored one before Cortland Lawson’s three-run home run cleared the fence in right field.
The top three in Tennessee’s lineup — Stephenson, Lipcius and Beck — combined to go just 3-15, but hitters four, five and six (Gilbert, Lipscomb, Ortega) had seven hits and seven RBIs.
Connell’s innings were critical to the win, even though he gave up those two runs in the seventh. He got the win and finished with four Ks in four innings.
Georgia Tech and Campbell play again tomorrow, and Tennessee gets the winner. If the Vols win tomorrow evening, the regional’s a wrap. If Tennessee were to lose tomorrow, the two teams would play again Monday.