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Vols Bow Out of SEC Tournament in Walk-off Fashion

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The Vols didn’t look like a 12-seed on Tuesday night in Hoover, Ala.. But their biggest weakness haunted them again.

No. 5 seed LSU beat No. 12 seed Tennessee with a walk-off winner, defeating the Vols 5-4.

It was Tennessee’s third straight year with a one-run loss in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

UT Bullpen Squanders Another Lead

As good as starting pitcher Will Neely was, his bullpen did not help him out. Andy Cox relieved Neely in the seventh. He lasted 0.2 innings, allowing two earned runs on two hits. Next up was Aaron Soto, who also went 0.2 innings. Soto gave up two hits and a walk, but didn’t allow a run.

Dave Serrano then turned to Hunter Martin with one out in the eighth. Martin cruised through the bottom of LSU’s order.

The ninth inning was a different story. Greg Deichmann led off the ninth with a solo shot to center, tying the game at four. One unintentional and two intentional walks later, the bases were loaded with one out for Kramer Robertson. Robertson crushed a 2-2 pitch down the third-base line to clinch an LSU victory.

Early Lead Dissolves

Tennessee was in control of this game from the get go. Freshman starting pitcher Will Neely was lights out, pitching 6+ innings of one run baseball. Neely’s breaking pitches confused LSU hitters to the tune of five hits and three strikeouts.

UT jumped out to an early lead when Jordan Rodgers singled home Chris Hall in the 4th. One inning later, Tyler Schultz bunted for a hit and stole second to put himself in scoring position. It was a Max Bartlett single through the right side that scored Schultz, giving UT a 2-0 advantage.

The Vols would add two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, but LSU would quickly answer. The Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to nearly tie the game. Vincent Jackson gunned down Antoine Duplantis at the plate to end the inning.

Vols’ Defense Comes Up Big

Tennessee played outstanding defensively. The Vols led the SEC in double plays this season, but struggled defensively to make big plays all season. LSU made three outs at home over the course of the game.

Brodie Leftridge saved a run in the fifth with a bullet from center field.

In the seventh, Vincent Jackson maintained Tennessee’s one run lead with a dart from left.

The Bottom Line

This game summed up the Dave Serrano era. There was solid starting pitching, and an overall decent performance. But this team didn’t finish, and got beat by a better team late in the game.

Serrano made a habit of making the SEC Tournament with late heroics in the final weekend of the regular season. But he’s yet to win a game in the tourney.

A win on Tuesday would’ve gone a long way towards saving Serrano’s job. This loss, specifically the way it happened, does not bode well for Serrano’s future as head coach.

Tennessee will lose a big group of seniors. They will almost certainly lose Nick Senzel to the MLB draft. Next season will be a natural time to hit the reset button.

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