KNOXVILLE, Tenn– The No.1 ranked Tennessee Volunteers defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Sunday night 9-6 in a back and forth contest. Georgia Tech held the lead all the way into the 9th inning, when Tennessee stormed back to win the game and advance to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Championship tournament.
Tennessee could not capitalize in the early innings of Sunday night’s contest. The Vols stranded a runner in scoring position in each of the first seven innings and only scored runners in two of those innings, in the fifth and seventh inning respectively.
It wasn’t that Tennessee couldn’t get on base, they just couldn’t bring anyone home.
This has been something that has been a problem for Tennessee in the past this season, such as the series loss to Kentucky. The Vols had a myriad of chances to score runs and just couldn’t capitalize and it came back to bite them in that series. It was good to see Tennessee overcome it tonight, however you can’t always bank on opportunities to score coming later in the ballgame.
A big factor for the Vols being unable to capitalize was the stellar pitching from Georgia Tech to start. Zach Maxwell was a force on the mound. He would “bend but not break” allowing runners on base, but never allowing anything that would resemble the big innings that we have seen from Tennessee throughout this season.
Maxwell would go six innings, allowing five hits, two runs that were unearned due to a fielding error, walked five batters and struck out eleven batters, and he threw 113 total pitches.
That is an insane amount of pitches for a guy who has been a reliever throughout this season and only had six starts coming into Sunday’s contest. He caused the Vols a lot of problems for the Vols and left the game with his team in the lead and was in line to get the win if Georgia Tech pulled off the upset. Tennessee was on its heels and needed someone to calm the storm
Drew Beam started the game for Tennessee and the script went very much like Saturday’s regional semifinal vs Campbell. He didn’t have the type of game that we have seen from Beam throughout Tennessee’s incredible season. The SEC Freshman of the Year was only able to go 3 ⅓ innings allowing four runs and only two were earned due to a throwing error from Cortland Lawson.
However it was clear when Stephen Reid launched a two-run homer over center fielder Drew Gilbert’s head in left center field that his day wasn’t gonna go much longer. Beam would walk the next two batters he faced and that would end his day.
Enter Will Mabrey.
The Vols left handed reliever came into the game and shut down the Yellow Jackets. Mabrey was able to get out of the jam in the fourth inning and went ⅓ of an inning longer than Beam did. He settled the Vols from a point where the game could’ve gotten away from them and kept them in it. He went three and two thirds innings, allowing five hits, walked zero batters,while striking out five.
“The hero for them was Will Mabrey,” Georgia Tech Head Coach Danny Hall said postgame.
While a lot of the attention will go to the explosive comeback the Vols had in the late innings. Hall is right. Mabrey came in and gave the Vols an opportunity to come back late, because he handled the middle innings and tight situations like a pro.
9th Inning Fireworks
The Vols were in what has been a rare situation for them this season, going to the ninth down, and only having three outs left to try and tie or win the ballgame.
The Vols were able to crawl out of the 4-0 hole that they had dug themselves in the early innings for the second night in a row. However, they closed the gap to a one run deficit entering the ninth.
The packed crowd inside of Lindsey Nelson Stadium was on their feet and anxiously waiting the magic that they had seen all season from this team to happen. Somehow, they did it again and in the most unexpected fashion.
It started with a Jared Dickey single, Dickey who pinch hit for Vols’ left fielder Seth Stephenson, hit a worm burner through the infield and into center field. He would immediately be pinch ran for and Kyle Booker entered the game. Luc Lipcius would step up and hit a grounder in the infield and it was originally ruled that a fielder’s choice was able to retire Booker at 2nd, but a review showed conclusive evidence that Booker did in fact beat the throw, where he was then ruled safe and the Vols had two runners on and no outs for Jordan Beck, and this is when the party officially started.
Beck smoked the second pitch he saw into center field and it just went over Georgia Tech Center Fielder Colin Hall’s head and got down for a double as Booker would score from second base and tie the game. This was one of the most passionate moments of Beck’s career in Tennessee as he rounded the bases yelling, and had a certain finger in the air as he rounded first base.
“I was super excited. I had a little bit of a blackout moment. … I wasn’t gonna let that guy beat me, and he didn’t,” Beck said.
The Vols were just getting started as with runners on second and third Drew Gilbert was intentionally walked and the bases were loaded for Trey Lipscomb. Lipscomb would be hit by a pitch and the Vols took the lead. Then back to back singles from Christian Moore and Evan Russell and finally a sac fly from Cortland Lawson and all of a sudden the Vols had scored six runs in the top half of the ninth and the Vols were up 9-4 heading into the bottom half of the inning.
While the Yellow Jackets would get two runs back and get the winning run up to bat. Vols’ closer Redmond Walsh was able to retire the side in the bottom half of the ninth, and spare Vol fans any heartbreak.
The competitiveness and will to win in this team is special and that showed tonight. Finding any way to get the win, and the way they did it wasn’t their usual offensive barrage. The Vols didn’t hit a home run and this was the only game they played in this regional in which they didn’t.
This game will definitely serve the team well as it continues on its quest for glory, while their ways to win may change their attitudes certainly won’t as even after being taken down to the wire Jordan Beck noted that this team’s mindset is still the same.
“We don’t fear many people. Even when we are down we have more motivation. Games are more fun when they are close like that, you can see the competitiveness come out in us,” Beck said.
This mindset is a great one to have as the competition is only going to get tougher and tougher.
The Vols will host the Knoxville Super Regional next weekend vs Notre Dame and game times will be provided later in the week.