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Long Ball Powers Tennessee Baseball To Series Sweep Over LSU

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball’s star hitters carried its offense via the long ball and Zander Sechrist turned in a strong start as the Vols defeated LSU 8-4 to complete the series sweep of Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

Here’s everything to know about Sunday’s series finale in Knoxville.

A Strong Zander Sechrist Start

Zander Sechrist to Nate Snead has been Tennessee’s Sunday winning formula on the mound this season with Sechrist usually pitching two innings as an opener and Snead throwing four-plus innings out of the bullpen. But after Snead threw two innings on Saturday night, Tennessee was going to have to fill more innings than they usually have to on Sunday.

Sechrist stepped up and took care of business himself, allowing six hits and two runs in 5.2 innings pitched. He was one out away from getting through six innings with the lead when Hayden Travinski hit a solo homer to left field to tie things up.

The left-handed pitcher didn’t do anything special but competed at a high level, threw strikes and avoided missing over the plate against the Tigers.

It’s the second time in three weeks that Sechrist has pitched deep into the game for Tennessee on Sunday after throwing six scoreless innings against Georgia two weeks ago. He keeps on getting more-and-more comfortable in the weekend starter role and is showing he at least has the potential to be more than an opener for Tennessee.

That’s extremely important for a Tennessee pitching staff that needs all the help it can get to eat up outs in weekend series this season.

More From RTI: Play-By-Play Of Tennessee Baseball’s Series Finale WinAgainst LSU

Home Run Race Heats Up Between Blake Burke And Christian Moore

Blake Burke entered the day atop Tennessee’s career home run record books with 41 total long balls and a one home run lead over teammate Christian Moore. Burke opened the scoring in the third inning by adding to his lead.

Tennessee’s offense hadn’t made any hard contact on LSU starter Nate Ackenhausen when Cal Stark singled to left field to give Tennessee a one-out baserunner.

Two-at bats later, Blake Burke hit a towering opposite field fly ball that just had enough to clear the wall and land in the first level of left field porches to give Tennessee a 2-0 lead. The long ball continued Burke’s marvelous season and extended his hit streak to 26 games, a mark that’s tied for the second longest in program history.

The next Tennessee long ball came in the sixth inning shortly after Travinski’s home run tied the game. Christian Moore led off the inning with a line drive homer into the left field porches to reclaim the lead and pull within one of Burke.

Tennessee’s star second baseman wasn’t done either. He came up with two-on and two-outs in the seventh inning and broke the game open by launching a no doubt homer to left field, tying Burke for the program record in the process.

Aaron Combs Shuts The Door

Moore’s second home run extended Tennessee’s lead to four runs but the Tigers didn’t go away just like that. A Michael Braswell II single and Tommy White home run quickly cut Tennessee’s lead in half before the Vols recorded an out in the eighth inning.

Tony Vitello made a pitching change, turning to right-handed reliever Aaron Combs. The redshirt junior was immediately in a groove, striking out the first two batters he faced before getting a weak ground ball to first base to get out of the inning with no more drama.

Tennessee’s offense used a two-out rally to score two runs in the eighth inning and provide the Vols with some real insurance. Then Combs calmly retired the side in order in the ninth inning while adding another strikeout.

It marked two straight strong appearances for Combs which is huge for Tennessee’s bullpen. Combs is one of the best pitchers in the Vols’ bullpen but had struggled for much of the season. He seems to be turning the corner at a key time for Tennessee.

Box Score

Up Next

Tennessee baseball hosts Bellarmine in a midweek bout at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday night before heading to Lexington for a critical three-game series at Kentucky.

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