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Tennessee Wins Thriller At Kentucky To Clinch Weekend Series

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Tennessee’s bats were flat through five inning against Kentucky starter Mason Moore. Then the Vols’ offense caught fire, outpacing the Wildcats 13-11 to clinch the top five weekend series.

Christian Moore had a generational performance at the plate and the Vols’ bullpen found a way to record enough outs to hold on.

Here’s everything to know about the Sunday series finale thriller.

Tennessee Struggles To Piece Things Together On Mound In Middle Innings

After working out of trouble in the third inning, Zander Sechrist started back on the mound in the fourth inning as Tennessee looked to get as many outs from the opener as possible.

Things started poorly when Mitchell Daly homered to right field on the first pitch of the inning. Then Christian Moore couldn’t stay in front of a Ryan Nicholson hard hit grounder and Sechrist’s day was over. Tennessee turned to Andrew Behnke to piece things together.

Behnke was unable to do that. He hit two of the three batters he faced, getting his only out on a sac bunt attempt where Burke cut the lead runner down at third.

High end reliever Nate Snead came in for Behnke and couldn’t get out of the jam, allowing a two-run double and a sac fly to deep right center before getting out of the inning with a line out. Things didn’t go any better for Snead in the fifth inning when he allowed three singles while recording one out as his day ended shortly after it began.

Tennessee’s bullpen was thin entering the series finale. Both Behnke and Snead struggling put them in a tough spot.

The Dam Breaks For Mason Moore In The Sixth Inning

Kentucky starter Mason Moore had been great through five innings. He’d allowed just three baserunners and while one was a two-run homer, the junior right-hander seemed like he was in complete control of the game.

But with Tennessee trailing by four runs in the sixth inning, the dam broke for Moore. He hit Cal Stark to open the inning then Christian Moore doubled to left field to give Tennessee a pair in scoring position to put the Vols in business.

Blake Burke drove home a run hitting a sand wedge into left field, reaching second on a throw home. Billy Amick legged out an infield single and Burke scored from second  when Grant Smith’s throw from shortstop got past first baseman Ryan Nicholson.

Dylan Dreiling, one of the most clutch hitters in the SEC, tied the game and ended Moore’s day two at-bats later with a single to right field.

A Cannon Peebles pinch hit sac fly gave Tennessee the lead and meant Moore’s day ended with just five innings pitched, allowing seven runs and five earned runs. He was fantastic through five innings but the numbers ended poor as the wheels fell off in the sixth inning.

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Christian Moore Reclaims Home Run Lead In Stellar Performance

Tennessee second baseman Christian Moore followed up a big time performance in Saturday’s win with an even more impressive performance on Sunday.

He was the only Vol that found success against Moore in the first five innings when he hit a two-run opposite field homer to open the scoring in the third inning.

Moore added the sixth inning double that helped sparked the rally. He hit his second home run of the day an inning later, tying the game with a solo shot to right field.

The junior second baseman wasn’t done either. With runners on the corners and two-outs in the eighth inning, Moore rocketed a three-run home run to left field.

It was his third home run of the game, 19th of the season and 46th of his career— passing teammate Blake Burke for the program record. Moore is just the seventh ever Tennessee player to hit three home runs in one game.

In the final two games of the weekend series, Moore hit eight-of-11 with four home runs, one double and eight RBIs. Other worldly stuff.

Kirby Connell Gets Tennessee Some Huge Outs

Left-handed reliever Kirby Connell proved his worth in the most Kirby Connell performance imaginable. He wasn’t perfect by any means. Statistically he wasn’t even good, allowing four home runs and five earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched.

But he just threw strikes and found away to get enough outs to take Tennessee to the finish line on a day when every out was at a premium.

As noted earlier, Tennessee’s bullpen was all but out of arms for the weekend when Connell came in. The left-handed pitcher was extremely important because of that fact. He threw strikes and was willing to live with the results. That’s why pitching coach Frank Anderson loves him.

On a day when Tennessee’s offense was humming, few others in the country could keep up as long as the opponent wasn’t offering up free passes. Connell didn’t do that.

Box Score

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Game Three Box Score

Up Next

Tennessee baseball returns to the field on Tuesday night when they’ll host Western Carolina at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. First pitch is at 6 p.m. ET with SEC Network+ streaming the game.

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