KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 23 Tennessee came out with a 7-5 victory over No. 15 Ole Miss in a rollercoaster of a game on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
With the win, the Vols clinched their fifth SEC series win of the season and improved to 14-15 in conference play, their most wins in league play since the 2005 College World Series team went 18-11.
Andre Lipcius had yet another big night at the plate to lead the Big Orange, going 3-for-3 with a pair of intentional walks and two runs scored. Evan Russell and Pete Derkay both drove in a pair of runs as well for the Orange and White.
Tennessee scored three runs without registering a hit in the bottom of the eighth immediately after the Rebels tied the game at four with a run in the top of the inning. Despite allowing a run in the ninth, redshirt sophomore closer Redmond Walsh was able to finish the game off to earn his first win of the season.
The Rebels struck first on Friday with a pair of runs in the top of the first. Thomas Dillard led off the game with a double and came home on a passed ball to open the scoring. Dillard was a thorn in the side of the Vols all night, finishing with four of the Rebels’ seven hits. Tyler Keenan drove in Grae Kessinger with an RBI ground out to put Ole Miss ahead 2-0 later in the inning.
Sophomore left hander Garrett Crochet got the start for UT and bounced back nicely from a rocky first inning until a scary moment forced him to have to leave the game with one out in the top of the third inning after taking a line drive off his jaw. Camden Sewell came in to replace Crochet and was able to strand runners on the corners to end the frame.
The Vols took their first lead of the night with a three-run fourth inning. Russell drove in UT’s first run with a sacrifice fly and Derkay singled a few batters later to bring in two more runs to give the Big Orange a 3-2 advantage.
The Rebels scratched across a run in the top of the fifth with the aid of a Tennessee error. Kessinger drove in the run on play later with an RBI ground out to tie the game at three.
It looked like Ole Miss was on its way to tying the game with runners on first and second and nobody out in the top of the sixth, but some heads-up defense by the Vols and poor base running by the Rebels led to an unorthodox double play.
Colton Johnson was caught too far off second base after the pitch, prompting a throw to second by catcher Landon Gray. Johnson was thrown out at third for the first out before Lipcius quickly fired across the diamond to catch Cole Zabowski off the base at first to erase both base runners. Pinch hitter Anthony Servideo flied out to right field to end the inning as UT was able to preserve its one-run lead.
Tennessee had chances to add to its lead with multiple runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings but was unable to take advantage. UT left 11 runners on base in the game.
The Rebels tied the game at four with a run in the top of the eighth on a two-out RBI double by Kevin Graham. Alerick Soularie misread the ball in left field, allowing it to get over his head to bring the tying run home. Soularie recovered nicely on the play, however, starting a 9-6-2 relay play to cut down the potential go-ahead run at the plate on the play to end the inning.
The Big Orange took advantage of four walks, a wild pitch and a passed ball in their pivotal three-run eighth inning and held on in the ninth for their 38th win of the year, the most in a season since 2005 (46).
THE CENTURY MARK: With two stolen bases in the fourth inning, Tennessee reached 100 steals for the season, marking the first time the Vols have stolen 100 or more bases in a season since stealing 113 bags in 2005. UT finished with three stolen bases on the night and has 101 for the year.
SEC SUCCESS: With Friday’s win, the Vols locked up their fifth SEC series win of the season, which is the most since the 2007 team also won five conference series. UT will go for its second SEC sweep tomorrow afternoon in the series finale.
UP NEXT: The Vols will look to complete the series sweep of the Rebels tomorrow afternoon. First pitch for the series and regular-season finale is slated for noon and will be televised on the SEC Network. Fans can also listen live as John Wilkerson and Vince Ferrara call the action for the Vol Radio Network (FM 99.1/AM 990).