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Tennessee Baseball Takes Series Opener Over Vanderbilt With Eighth Inning Explosion

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt had all the momentum and a late game lead over Tennessee baseball in Friday night’s series opener at Hawkins Field.

Then Tennessee hit two home runs and exploded for five runs in the eighth inning to turn a 4-3 deficit into what proved to be an 8-4 win for the program’s eighth straight win over its instate rival.

Here’s everything to know about the matchup.

Tennessee’s Bats Start Fast

It took Tennessee all of three pitches to strike against Vanderbilt ace Bryce Cunningham as Christian Moore took him deep to right field for a line drive home run. Moore’s 22nd home run of the season gave Tennessee a lead right at the start of weekend series.

It looked like Cunningham would sit the Vols down quietly after the leadoff bat as he retired the next two batters. But then Kavares Tears worked a walk and made a strong read to advance to second on a ball in the dirt to give the Vols a runner in-scoring position.

Dylan Dreiling made them pay, lining a 2-2 pitch into right field for a RBI double to give the Vols an early 2-0 lead.

Tennessee scoring two runs wasn’t anything insane but they made Cunningham work throughout the inning with competitive at-bats. The right-handed pitcher faced seven batters and threw 29 pitches which proved beneficial because Cunningham got into a groove after the first inning.

Things Go Sideways For AJ Causey In The Sixth Inning, Responds In Impressive Fashion

AJ Causey was cruising along like he had the last four weeks when he began to walk off the mound after a 1-2 pitch he, and the rest of the Tennessee team, was confident was strike three. Causey didn’t get the call but it was just a 2-2 count with two-outs and no one on base. No harm.

But things quickly went sideways for Causey from there. He lost the battle with Camden Kozeal for a two-out walk and then Colin Barczi hit a soft liner up the middle to put two-on with two-outs.

Matthew Polk pulled Vanderbilt within one run with a double to left center field. Then Causey’s 0-2 breaking ball to Jacob Humphrey caught just too much of the plate and and the center fielder pulled it into left field for a two-RBI single.

What seemed like a near certainty to be a quiet inning turned into a three-run sixth inning as Vanderbilt took its first lead of the game heading into its final three innings.

But credit to Causey for the response. He retired Vanderbilt in order in the seventh and eighth inning before working around a two-out single in the ninth inning to secure the win.

Causey finished his day allowing three runs and five hits while striking out seven batters in 6.1 innings pitched— his longest relief outing of the season.

More From RTI: Play-By-Play Of Tennessee Baseball’s Series Opening Win At Vanderbilt 

Tennessee’s Offense Wakes Up With Big Eighth Inning

Tennessee had just one hit between the third and eighth inning as Cunningham got into a groove. But Cunningham’s day ended with two-outs in the seventh inning. While Miller Green got Vanderbilt out of the seventh inning unscathed, the Vols quickly got to him in the eighth inning.

Billy Amick fought back from a 1-2 count and lined a 3-2 pitch into right field for a leadoff single. Green nearly hit Kavares Tears with a 0-1 fastball up and in and then a 1-1 breaking ball. His 2-1 pitch found the zone and Tears hit it on the ceiling of Memorial Gymnasium to reclaim the lead for Tennessee.

The Vols weren’t done in the inning either. Dreiling’s third hit of the game was a triple to left-center field that ran Green from the game.

Hunter Ensley drove Dreiling home with a single to center field and then Cannon Peebles opened the game up with a pinch hit two-run home run to right field. It was just Peebles second home run of the season and the fourth hit from a Tennessee player in the designated hitter spot in the last 13 SEC games.

The five-run inning gave Tennessee the lead and practically slammed the door on Vanderbilt in the series opener.

Box Score

Up Next

Tennessee and Vanderbilt resume its weekend series on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET. The SEC Network is broadcasting the matchup.

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