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Knoxville Regional Recap: Campbell, Georgia Tech give Tennessee their best shot

Tennessee swept their way to the Super Regionals, but it was anything but easy

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The opening weekend on the road to Omaha was a run scoring fiesta filled with lots of great moments with great baseball and great moments, especially for the Tennessee Volunteers.

Across the regionals over the weekend, it was a slugfest. The winning team scored double digit runs in 38 of 94 games over the weekend, and with 10 elimination games slated for Monday, that number is sure to grow. Four unlucky teams also scored 10-plus runs in losing efforts, including Missouri State.

Overall Tournament Recap (a brief one)

Missouri State took a 12-0 lead into the top of the fourth in an elimination game against regional host and seventh seeded Oklahoma State. One thing led to another, and the Cowboys outscored Missouri State 29-3 the rest of the way. Oklahoma State is averaging over 16 runs per game this tournament and will face Arkansas in a win or go home game on Monday following their 10-inning victory over the Hogs late Sunday night. Not bad for a double header.

Knoxville Regional: Tennessee (3-0) advances to Super Regional
Statesboro Regional: Notre Dame (3-0) advances to Super Regional
Austin Regional: Texas (3-0) advances to Super Regional
Greenville Regional: East Carolina vs. Coastal Carolina
College Station Regional: Texas A&M (3-0) advances to Super Regional
Louisville Regional: Michigan vs. Louisville
Gainesville Regional: Oklahoma vs. Florida
Blacksburg Regional: Virginia Tech advances to Super Regional
Stanford Regional: Stanford vs. Texas State
College Park Regional: UConn vs. Maryland
Chapel Hill Regional: VCU vs. North Carolina
Stillwater Regional: Arkansas vs. Oklahoma State
Coral Gables Regional: Ole Miss vs. Arizona
Hattiesburg Regional: LSU vs. Southern Miss
Auburn Regional: play suspended; Auburn leads 9-0 over UCLA
Corvallis Regional: Oregon State vs. Vanderbilt

Just six tickets were punched to the Supers on Sunday for the Sweet Sixteen, if you will. One of those teams happens to be your top ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Let’s take a look at the Knoxville Regional and how the Vols got here.

Knoxville Regional Recap

Game 1: 3) Campbell def. 2) Georgia Tech 15-8
— A trio of home runs in the top of the second put the Camels up 5-0, and with Tech struggling to get to Campbell’s ace, Thomas Harrington, early, the Yellow Jackets found themselves in an 11-3 hole before they could fully get to Harrington. Ty Babin drove in five to lead the way for Campbell.

Game 2: 1) Tennessee def. 4) Alabama State 10-0
— Breon Pooler grinded through 4.2 innings of three run ball for Alabama State against the best offense in the country, but his efforts to slow down the buzzsaw that is the Tennessee offense came up short as Blade Tidwell stymied the Hornets, tossing 7.2 shutout innings, allowing three hits and no walks, striking out seven. Off the heels of Tidwell, Ben Joyce and Mark McLaughlin added 1.2 innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one additional baserunner.

Tennessee’s slower start offensively by everyone not named Luc Lipcius or Jorel Ortega snowballed into a five-run sixth for the Vols, capped off by back to back jacks from Jordan Beck and Drew Gilbert, effectively ending this game.

Game 3: 2) Georgia Tech def. 4) Alabama State 13-4 | Alabama State eliminated
— Coming into this start with a 7.34 ERA on the season, Chance Huff pitched his best game since early March. An infield single followed by a walk set up early trouble for Huff, and a Chris Lewis 2-RBI triple foreshadowed a potentially long day ahead for Georgia Tech. However, Huff settled down and tossed four consecutive scoreless innings after that, retiring 12 in a row at one point.

Huff would go 7 frames, allowing three runs, keeping the scoreboard quiet while the Tech bats did the damage. Chandler Simpson set the tone from the leadoff spot, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and four runs scored. Tres Gonzalez and Tim Borden did damage out of the middle of the order, driving in seven between them. This loss eliminated Alabama State from the tournament.

Game 4: 1) Tennessee def. 3) Campbell 12-7
— The Camels got to Chase Dollander early, putting up four runs in the third, putting the Vols on their heels early. Dollander had looked sharp through two innings, but Jerrod Belbin tagged him with a two-run shot to start the scoring. Dollander would retire a pair of batters following that with a Zach Neto double sandwiched in between.

Chase looked primed to get out of the frame just allowing the two runs, but a Courtland Lawson error allowed Neto to come around to score, and from there, the wheels were off for Tennessee’s best arm. Dollander would surrender one more run, and a walk, leading to Tony Vitello pulling his ace after just 2.2 innings.

In what would become a theme for Tennessee in this regional, everything calmed down once things turned over to the bullpen. Kirby Connell relieved Dollander to finish off the third, and he would go four innings giving up just two runs, giving the Vols offense a chance to get back in it.

Tennessee’s offense was quiet the first time through, but they really got to Cade Kuehler the next time around. Trey Lipscomb drove in Drew Gilbert with an RBI single following a Gilbert double, and Jorel Ortega’s hot bat stayed scorching, hitting a two-run home run, dwindling Campbell’s lead to 4-3.

The Vols weren’t done. After getting Lipcius and Beck on, Drew Gilbert made Kuehler pay for the two out walk. Kuehler started Gilbert with two perfect curves, and despite being on them, they were just below his bat. Now up 0-2, Kuehler tried Gilbert with a third one, but this one hung up in the lower third and Gilbert did not miss it.

There’s something about June 4 and huge Drew Gilbert home runs. This gave the Vols a 7-to-4 lead, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, though Campbell made a valiant effort.

The Camels added a pair off Connell with a home run in the seventh, and they loaded the bases against Chase Burns with two outs. Burns got Lawson Harrill swinging on a 98 mph fastball to retire the side and escape the jam.

Leading 8-to-7 heading into the top of the ninth, Christian Moore drove in a run with a single, and Courtland Lawson added a huge insurance three-run blast, putting the Vols up 12-to-7 and the game out of reach.

Game 5: 2) Georgia Tech def. 3) Campbell 16-5 | Campbell eliminated
— Campbell simply ran out of viable arms here. Harrington is a highly touted 2022 pitching prospect, and Kuehler is set to be drafted fairly highly in 2023, but after them, there just isn’t much. Jon Beymer toed the rubber for the Camels against a very explosive Tech offense, and the Yellow Jackets jumped all over him.

Beymer gave up just one run in the first, but his lack of command loaded the bases in the second. He was able to induce a double play ball, allowing just one run to cross, but the top of Tech’s lineup was up, and trouble soon followed. Chandler Simpson terrorized any and all pitching in the Knoxville Regional, and he drove in a run to make it 4-to-2 before Kevin Parada doubled to drive in Simpson. Andrew Jenkins drove in Parada, and Campbell was in a 6-to-2 hole early.

Let’s take a quick moment to recognize Chandler Simpson’s regional. In four games, Simpson tallied 11 hits in 19 at bats, with 3 doubles, 4 RBI, 9 runs scored. He was a menace especially in this game against Campbell, going 5-for-6 with a double, 2 RBI, and 4 runs scored.

Campbell scored four runs in the first three innings against Marquis Grissom, but Josiah Siegel came in and shut them down for the final 6.1 innings, allowing just one run the rest of the way against one of the better scoring offenses in the nation. Tech’s offense was relentless the rest of the way, and they cruised to a 16-to-5 win, eliminating the Fighting Camels from the tournament.

Game 6: 1) Tennessee def. 2) Georgia Tech 9-6
— If this game were a movie, it was a slow burn hurdling towards the end. Drew Beam got through the first two innings against Tech fairly easily, but as has become thematic for Beam late in the season, the velo was down and the walks were up.

A one out walk to Colin Hall in the third set the table for Jaydn Jackson, and he promptly doubled, putting runners on second and third with one out. Kevin Parada grounded to Courtland Lawson, a usually sure handed shortstop, botched the throw, allowing a pair of runners to score, putting Tennessee in a 2-to-0 hole early.

The Yellow Jackets added two more in the fourth with a Stephen Reid two-run homer, and the pair of walks that followed marked the end of another frustrating start for Drew Beam.

Remember that theme of bullpen pitching? Yeah, it was alive and well in this one. Will Mabrey came on in relief of Beam, and for 3.2 innings, he shoved. Mabrey struck out five and didn’t allow a run.

Tennessee looked to have something going in the fifth, and though they added a pair of runs, one on an error by first baseman Andrew Jenkins and the other on an RBI groundout from Jordan Beck, they left men in scoring position for the fifth straight inning. 4-to-2 Jackets.

The sixth was more of the same. The Vols loaded the bases following a pair of two out walks, but Seth Stephenson struck out looking.

Tennessee had no answer to Zach Maxwell all night long. Maxwell excelled at pitching out of trouble, and there were times where he flat out dominated Tennessee hitters, fanning 11 Vols in his six innings of work.

Luc Lipcius got the seventh started with a leadoff double off of Dawson Brown, son of MLB legend Kevin Brown, and Jordan Beck followed that with an infield single. Drew Gilbert bounced out but advanced Lipcius to third and Beck to second, and Trey Lipscomb drove in Luc with an RBI single, putting runners at the corners with one out. However, once again the Vols squandered a golden opportunity as Jorel Ortega grounded into a double play, ending the threat.

The eighth saw another double play end an inning before it could get started, and the Vols were an elimination game on Monday in the eyes.

That didn’t happen.

Jared Dickey pinch hit for Seth Stephenson to kick off the ninth, and he grounded a single into center to start the frame. Kyle Booker came on to run for Dickey, and his speed made a huge, game changing play. Lipcius grounded into a fielder’s choice, and the initial call was that Booker was out at second. After review, however, Booker’s hand beat the ball, and the Vols were once again set up with a runner in scoring position, this time with no outs and for Jordan Beck.

In their final chance of the night, the Vols broke through. Beck roped a double that deceived the center fielder and soared over his head, allowing Booker to score and tie the game. Lipcius lumbered his way to third, and now the Vols had two guys in scoring position and still no outs. Tech intentionally walked Drew Gilbert only to have Brown hit Lipscomb with a pitch, allowing the go ahead run to score, the Vols, at long last, had a lead, 5-to-4.

The bases remained loaded following an Ortega groundout that nabbed Beck at home, and Christian Moore sent a pinch hit single into left, adding two more runs for the Vols. Following an Evan Russell RBI single and Courtland Lawson sac fly, the Vols went to the bottom of the ninth with a 9-to-4 lead with Redmond Walsh closing it down.

Walsh surrendered a pair of runs in a feverish comeback attempt by Georgia Tech, but it was ultimately not enough, and Tennessee emerged a 9-to-6 winner, winning the Knoxville Regional and advancing to the Super Regional.

Tennessee will host Statesboro Regional winner, Notre Dame, in the Super Regional next weekend in what’s sure to be an electric atmosphere inside Lindsey Nelson. Notre Dame can pitch. They held Texas Tech to a single run to advance to the Super Regionals off the back of a strong outing from ace John Michael Bertrand. The Vols are going to have their full array of pitchers back at their disposal as well. It’s sure to be a fantastic series between two of the very best pitching staffs in the nation.