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Tennessee Baseball Outlasts Mississippi State In SEC Tournament Thriller

Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

HOOVER, Ala. — A sold out crowd split almost 50-50, a fifth inning kerfuffle and a high-level game decided in the final innings.

Tennessee baseball’s 6-5 victory against Mississippi State on Friday night was everything that’s great about the SEC Tournament.

Here’s what to know as the Vols advance to the semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

Early Missed Scoring Opportunities

Mississippi State starting pitcher Pico Kohn entered the game with just 19 innings pitched on the season. Tennessee did a great job of constantly putting pressure on him early in the game but didn’t do a great job of fully capitalizing on that pressure.

The Vols put runners on first and second with one-out in the first inning but a strikeout and groundout ended the inning. Tennessee had runners on first and second with no one out in the second inning but a strikeout and fly out from the back of the order (Villeneuve and Stark) and a pop out from Christian Moore ended the inning.

Tennessee found some success in both the third and fourth inning when they threatened. In the third, the Vols loaded the bases with one out. Kavares Tears had a strong at-bat before sending a sac fly to left field to open the scoring. Then Dean Curley smoked a grounder at second base to end the inning thanks to a nice play by Amani Larry. Great process in the two at-bats and solid but not a great result.

The Vols put runners on the corners with one-out in the fourth inning— running Kohn from the game in the process. With Blake Burke at the plate, the Vols ran a double steal. Mississippi State threw Moore out at first while Chapman came home to score.

Tennessee didn’t get nothing from the four scoring opportunities but they did leave seven runners on-base and misses an opportunity to do more damage.

Things Get Away From Tennessee In An Eventful Fifth Inning

Drew Beam hadn’t allowed a hit when he took the mound for the fifth inning. He hit Larry Amani, recorded the first out of the inning and then allowed his first hit of the night on a Joe Powell seeing-eye single.

The right-handed pitcher even got the second out and was oh so close to getting the third out on three straight pitches. Cal Stark couldn’t hold on to a foul tip and Beam didn’t get two borderline strikes as David Mershon walked to load the bases.

During Conor Hujsack’s at-bat, Mississippi State’s dugout erupted when two calls went against the Bulldogs. It mattered little to Hujsack, the Bulldogs’ hero all week, who ran Beam from the game and tied the matchup at 3-3 with a single up the middle.

That’s when the real drama happened. A brouhaha broke out between the two sides as part of Mississippi State’s dugout piled onto the field and Christian Moore and Cal Stark came over and shared heated words. Check out the video of the scene here.

Aaron Combs couldn’t get out of the inning after relieving Beam as Bulldogs star Dakota Jordan hit a two-RBI single to left field to give them their first lead of the game.

Beam was brilliant through nearly five innings, but couldn’t get that final out. Because of it he ended up allowing five earned runs.

More From RTI: Play-By-Play Of Tennessee Baseball’s SEC Tournament Win Against Mississippi State 

Tennessee Uses Numerous Bullpen Options To Seal The Deal

The Vols tied the game in the seventh inning thanks to a Cannon Peebles fielder’s choice plus a throwing error. Blake Burke gave them the lead in the eighth inning with a solo home run. That meant the Vols needed six outs to get to the finish line.

Tony Vitello gave Andre Behnke the ball in the eighth inning. Tennessee came to Hoover wanting to expand its pitching depth and Behnke was the pitcher on the fence of getting weekend innings and earning his coaches’ trust.

Behnke allowed one run in one inning pitched against Vanderbilt on Wednesday. He wasn’t great but also wasn’t awful in the outing.

Tony Vitello gave him another opportunity in an absolutely massive spot against the Bulldogs. Behnke came in to pitch with Tennessee leading by a run in the eighth inning. He promptly retired the side with two strikeouts. The sophomore rising to the occasion in that moment has to be comforting for Tennessee’s coaching staff.

Vitello turned to Kirby Connell to face left-handed batter Hunter Hines to lead off the inning. Hines popped out for out number one and then RHP Nate Snead came in to pitch. Snead made it easy, getting a pair of ground outs to short to end the game.

Box Score

Up Next

Tennessee baseball advances to the SEC Tournament Semifinals on Saturday afternoon where they’ll face Vanderbilt at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET at the Hoover Met.

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