CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 22 Tennessee booked its spot in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional Championship against North Carolina later today after defeating the Liberty Flames 6-5 in an extra-inning thriller on Sunday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium.
The Volunteers were unable to hold a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth but were able to limit the damage to just one run despite the Flames loading the bases loaded with nobody out. After a line out to first base, UT turned a 1-2-3 double play to send the game into extras.
Jake Rucker made the Flames pay for a two-out error that allowed the top of the 10th inning to continue. The freshman second baseman singled to left field to score Evan Russell from third and give the Big Orange a 6-5 lead.
Despite allowing a leadoff single in the bottom of the 10th, Tennessee closer Redmond Walsh was able to buckle down and retire the next three batters to end the game and send the Vols to their first regional final since 2005.
UT jumped out to an early lead with a run in the top of the first and added to it with two more in the top of the second to pull ahead 3-0. The Vols’ hot hitting from yesterday continued as they cranked out six hits in the first two innings and 14 for the game.
Liberty responded with two runs in the fourth and another in the fifth to tie the game at three before a massive two-run homer by Andre Lipcius put the Vols back on top in the fifth. The homer came off of Flames’ All-American reliever Evan Brabrand after he entered the game in relief of starter Joseph Adametz. Lipcius took the second pitch of his at-bat against Brabrand off the scoreboard in left center for his 17th four-bagger of the season.
The junior from Williamsburg, Va., led the Vols offensively, going 3-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI after registering just one hit over the last two games.
Sophomore right hander Sean Hunley got his second start against the Flames this season and went 3.2 innings, giving up one run on six hits before being relieved by Garrett Crochet, who allowed three runs, only one of which was earned, in 3.2 innings. Walsh pitched the final 3.2 innings to pick up his second victory of the season.
BIG BATS BACK ON TRACK: Andre Lipcius and Alerick Soularie got back on track today, going 5-for-10 in the game after combining to go 1-for-15 over UT’s first two regional games. Lipcius blasted a two-run home run off the scoreboard to help put the Vols back in the lead during the fifth inning and finished with two RBI.
OVER THE HILL: With the win over Liberty, the Vols reached the 40-win mark for the first time since 2005, when UT won 46 games and went to the College World Series.
UP NEXT: Tennessee moves on to face North Carolina in the Chapel Hill Regional Championship at 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and the ESPN App. Fans can also listen live as John Wilkerson call the action for the Vol Radio Network (FM 99.1/AM 990).