Tennessee baseball overcame a late inning three-run deficit to defeat Texas A&M 8-7 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Vols bats lifted up their pitching while relievers Andrew Lindsey and Camden Sewell delivered late to give Tennessee its first SEC series win of the year.
Here’s everything you need to know about the series clinching win.
Chase Burns Dominant In The Middle
Texas A&M three-hole hitter Jack Moss took a 1-2 fastball right down the middle deep to left center field to give the Aggies a 2-0 first inning lead. It continued a common theme as Tennessee pitchers have struggled in the first inning in SEC play.
It was the only mistake Burns made for the first five innings The sophomore right handed pitcher bounced back and looked fantastic for much of his 5.2 inning outing.
Burns allowed a two-out bloop single in the second inning and then got on an absolute tear, retiring the next 12 batters and doing it with ease. The Aggies had no answers for the sophomore right-hander who carved his way through the lineup and looked like one of the best pitchers in the nation doing it.
Those middle innings are what Burns can do nearly every start but its the consistency issues around it that have been his issue this season. That continued to be the case in against Texas A&M. When things went poorly for Burns they went poorly in a hurry.
“You almost don’t need to have anybody in the bullpen, we did, but then one thing happens and it kinda bleeds to another,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said postgame. “But overall, you want your starter to leave the game giving your team a chance to win, and he did that.”
Texas A&M finally got Burns out of his groove with a two-out single in the sixth inning and that’s when the disaster started for Tennessee. More on that in a moment.
Burns’ final numbers were 5.2 innings pitched, allowing six hits and five earned runs while striking out eight.
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A Disastrous Sixth Inning Flips the Game In A Hurry
Texas A&M finally reached base against Burns with two-outs in the sixth inning. At the time it seemed like no real issue for Tennessee but things spiraled in a hurry for the Vols.
Austin Bost followed up Jack Moss’ single with a double down the line that gave Texas A&M two runners in scoring position. Jace LaViolette brought them home with a double down the left field line and just like that the game was tied.
That wasn’t where the trouble ended for Tennessee. Burns surrendered back-to-back 3-2 walks to load the bases. The sophomore thought he had a strikeout looking in both at-bats as he began walking to the dugout. Instead he walked to the dugout as Kirby Connell came in to replace him.
Connell surrendered a 3-2 walk of his own to give Texas A&M its first lead since the second inning. Tennessee looked like it was out of the inning with a routine grounder to third base but Zane Denton booted it and Texas A&M scored its fourth run of the inning.
Denton made a tougher play one at-bat later to end the inning but it wasn’t before the Aggies scored four runs on three hits, three walks and an error to take the lead and completely flip the game.
But the Vols had a response for the Aggies and didn’t go away like they did last week in Columbia.
“Kirby usually gets you of out of that jam and then bam he gets the next one, it doesn’t go well for us and that’s a great opportunity for the team to kind of fall apart,” Vitello said. “Kirby keeps his composure which might be his best asset and then the guys bounce back the way that they do.”
Tennessee Takes Series With Late Game Comeback
After Texas A&M did damage with two-outs in the sixth inning and Tennessee responded with two-out rally of its own in the seventh inning.
Hunter Ensley — hitting in the cleanup spot for the first time this season — drove Christian Moore home with a two strike single to left field to cut into the Aggies’ lead. Jared Dickey followed it up with what would have been a no doubt home run on most days.
But on Saturday, the wind was howling in from right field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Texas A&M right fielder Kasen Wells went back to the wall and couldn’t get back to it as it dropped in front of him for a RBI triple. Dickey came home one at-bat later as a wild pitch got past Hank Bard.
“You gotta have self-belief, man,” Vitello said of Dickey. “If you start to doubt yourself you get exposed and if you have self-belief then it’ll go your way a lot. … He is a — I like self-made guys and it’s not like he didn’t have talent. We recruited him here. But in so many ways he is a self-made guy and that helps his self-image which is pretty strong.”
Tennessee got straight to work in the ninth inning as Christian Moore worked a leadoff walk and immediately took second on a wild pitch. Blake Burke moved him to third with a groundout and Jared Dickey roped a sac fly into that right field wind to secure the win after the Aggies intentionally walked Hunter Ensley.
“After seeing that curveball out I knew they were going to try and challenge me with a heater in to try and get me to roll over and get the out at home,” Dickey said of the walk off sac fly. “(I) Got my hands to it and went to work.”
Coming from behind to earn its first SEC series win is huge for Tennessee as the Vols try to find their footing after a rocky start.
“That’s one that formulates you as a team and gets everybody to quit talking about other guys that have played here two or three years ago, and what we want to be,” Vitello said. “You can’t just wish it or want it.”
Tennessee and Texas A&M conclude its weekend series Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. First pitch between the Vols and Aggies is at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.