HOOVER, Ala. – No. 4 Tennessee’s impressive run at the SEC Tournament fell just short as the Vols were defeated by No. 1 Arkansas, 7-2, in Sunday’s championship game at the Hoover Met.
The Razorbacks shook off a slow start to score all seven of their runs over the final five innings after falling behind 1-0 in the first.
Will Heflin got the start for UT and allowed just one hit through the first four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. The senior left hander finished with four strikeouts but allowed three runs on four hits and two walks in 4.2 innings of work.
Jalen Battles led the Razorbacks attack with a three-hit day while finishing with two RBI and a pair of runs scored.
Like they have for the past three days, the Vols opened the scoring in Sunday’s contest. Rucker recorded the game’s first hit with a two-out double down the right-field line before Gilbert drove him in with a single one batter later to give Tennessee an early 1-0 lead.
After recording just one hit over the first four innings, Arkansas took the lead with three runs in the top of the fifth. Cullen Smith walked to lead off the inning before three straight singles resulted in a pair of runs. A sacrifice fly plated the third run of the inning to give the Razorbacks a 3-1 lead.
Battles increased the Hogs’ lead to three with a solo home run in the top of the seventh, driving in his second run of the day. The junior shortstop ended up being named tournament MVP.
Derkay answered with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the inning off of SEC Pitcher of the Year Kevin Kopps, narrowing the deficit back to two runs. It was the second homer of the tournament for the Georgia native and his fourth of the season.
Unfortunately, Tennessee was unable to keep Arkansas’ high-powered offense off the board in the eighth, as the Razorbacks struck for three more runs to increase their lead to five. The Vols were nearly out of the jam with just one run allowed, but Smith hit a two-run homer with two outs to make it 7-2 and essentially ice the game.
The Vols recorded singles in the eighth and ninth innings but were unable to get a significant rally started against Kopps, who got a flyout to end the game and earn his 10th save of the year.
Tennessee will now wait for its NCAA Tournament draw to be released. The 16 NCAA Regional host sites will be announced Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on the NCAA College World Series social media platforms. The complete tournament bracket will be unveiled during the NCAA Selection Show, which will air live on ESPN2 at noon ET on Monday.
WHAT A RUN: Despite falling in Sunday’s title game, the Vols had an incredible run in Hoover this week. Tennessee was able to battle back from an opening-game loss to advance to its first SEC Tournament championship game since 1995. The Vols’ three victories in this year’s tournament equaled the total amount of wins they had in their last six appearances combined.
FOUR VOLS NAMED TO ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Tennessee had four players earn a spot on the SEC All-Tournament team for their performances this week, marking the fourth time the Vols have had four or more players named to the all-tournament team and the first time since 1995. UT’s four selections were the most of any team with Florida coming in second with three.