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No. 19 Vols Use Late Inning Heroics to Beat George Washington

No. 19 Tennessee baseball scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning then busted the game wide open in the eighth on Friday to avoid its first loss of the season and beat George Washington 7-1.

The Colonials (6-3) led for the first six innings of the first game of the three-game series. That is until Luc Lipcius led off the seventh inning with a solo home run off the scoreboard in right field to tie the game at 1-1. Lipcius’ first home run of the season sparked a three-run seventh inning that proved to be the difference in the game.

“It was a fastball,” Lipcius said following the game about his home run. “I just dropped my hands and put a good barrel on it.”

Following Lipcius’ homer, Drew Gilbert reached second following a throwing error on George Washington shortstop Joe Biancone. Gilbert then advanced to third on a pitch in the dirt. With the Colonials defense playing in, Gilbert then came in to score on an RBI groundout off the bat of Liam Spence.

“He’s (Gilbert) a spark plug,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. “He’s a spark plug on the mound, when he’s in the field, at the plate. He has lightning quick hands.”

“That all reverts back to Coach (Vitello), just letting everybody be who they are,” Gilbert added. “Obviously I’m a very energetic player, so him allowing me to be who I am really helps me perform.”

The big seventh inning continued for the Vols following a Pete Derkay single and a Zach Daniels double to left center. George Washington pitcher Trevor Kuncl plunked back-to-back batters. Jake Rucker was the recipient of the first hit by pitch, which loaded the bases. Alerick Soularie then took one off the dome to bring in the third and final run of the inning.

Chad Dallas (W, 3-0) was in the midst of completing his third start of the season during the Vols’ offensive outburst. Dallas allowed one run over the course of seven innings to pick up his third win of the season. The sophomore right-hander allowed six hits, but he gave up just one walk and struck out seven.

“Not as crisp as he (Dallas) was at his best moments in the first two games, but if you look at the whole outing, it kind of falls under the same umbrella as the first two,” Vitello said. “Enough strikes, gritted it out, he was tough, fearless.

“The No. 1 thing that stuck out tonight that I don’t think occurred the first two times was a few too many rolling breaking balls where he just didn’t get through the thing, especially with two strikes. Maybe that’s weather, maybe that’s poor focus, or maybe it’s a very well-coached Washington team.”

Dallas’ last inning of work was the top half of the seventh. After the Vols gave him the lead in the bottom half of the inning, Sean Hunley entered in relief to begin the eighth inning

Hunley proceeded to slam the door on the George Washington offense as he pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth inning to pick up his third save of the season. The junior right-hander didn’t allow a hit or a walk and tallied one strikeout. Hunley retired every batter he faced.

“Every single area of his (Hunley) game has developed,” Vitello said. “He’s a guy that throws strikes, and if we play defense behind a guy like him, he’s going to be even more effective.”

Lipcius sparked the Vols’ offense in the seventh inning with a home run to tie the game. An inning later, sophomore Trey Lipscomb cranked a grand slam over the left field wall to extend the Tennessee lead to 7-1. The grand slam that put the game away was Lipscomb’s first career home run.

“It was only a matter of time for him (Lipscomb),” Vitello said. “He needed that. That’s going to allow him to play. And when he plays, he’s as good as anybody we got.”

Tennessee had plenty of opportunities to produce throughout the first six innings despite not having anything to show for it. In the second inning, a groundout ended the inning with runners on first and second. Then, in the sixth inning, after back-to-back two-out singles from Rucker and Soularie, Connor Pavolony grounded out to third to end the inning.

Harrison Cohen (L, 1-1) picked up the loss for the Colonials despite a strong performance on the mound. The redshirt freshman allowed nine hits in 6.1 innings of work, but he gave up two runs. Cohen tallied three strikeouts and didn’t give up a walk.

“I think the only way we got to him (Cohen) was wearing him down,” Vitello said. “He’s obviously very good, but he also came ready to get after it today.”

At the plate for George Washington, sophomore second baseman Noah Levin drove in the only run on an RBI double to right field.

Game two of the weekend series was originally scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, but it has been moved up to 3 p.m. RHP Chase Wallace (1-0, 2.70 ERA) is expected to start for Tennessee on the mound, while RHP Justin Solt (0-1, 3.46 ERA) is the projected starter for George Washington.

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