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Tennessee Baseball Defeats Vanderbilt To Advance To SEC Tournament Finals

Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

HOOVER, Ala. — Tennessee baseball is headed back to the SEC Tournament Finals for the third time in the last four seasons.

The Vols avenged Wednesday’s loss against Vanderbilt by knocking off the Commodores 6-4 on Saturday night. Here’s how Tennessee got it done against its instate foe.

Tennessee With An Impressive Response

Things went quite poorly for Tennessee in the fifth inning despite early promise. It looked like Tennessee was about to add on to its 2-0 lead when Christian Moore doubled and Blake Burke singled to lead off the fifth inning. The Vols had runners on the corners with no-one out but didn’t do anything with it.

Billy Amick popped out, Dylan Dreiling struck out and Hunter Ensley grounded out in what proved to be a big missed opportunity.

Things went from bad to worse in the bottom half of the inning when Matthew Polk hit a seeing-eye single through the infield and Braden Holcomb tied the game with a two-run homer. It was an opportunity for things to get sideways for Tennessee in a hurry but they didn’t let it.

The Vols immediately went to work in the sixth inning with back-to-back singles from Kavares Tears and Cannon Peebles putting runners on the corners before a Dalton Bargo sac fly to the warning track in center field reclaimed the lead for the Big Orange.

But the big moment of the inning came two batters later when Moore launched a 441 foot home run to center field to give the Vols a 5-2 lead. It was Moore’s 28th home run of the season, third extra-base hit of the game and gave Tennessee a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Fantastic Outing From Zander Sechrist

With Tennessee’s pitching running low, the Vols needed a long out from Zander Sechrist on Saturday if they wanted any hope to not only beat Vanderbilt but give themselves a chance to win Sunday’s championship game. That’s exactly what Sechrist did.

The left-handed pitcher was phenomenal against Vanderbilt. The only runs he gave up came on the previously mentioned two-run homer. Sechrist struck out five batters, allowed four hits and one walk as he threw just 80 pitches in six innings of work.

Sechrist has been somewhere between an opener and a starter all season but he’s turned in back-to-back fantastic outings. The veteran left-handed pitcher has pitched six innings in each of his last two outings after doing it just once previously this season.

It’s a great sign for Sechrist entering the NCAA Tournament when every outing becomes magnified.

More From RTI: Live Updates Of Tennessee Baseball’s SEC Tournament Win Against Vanderbilt

Major Lineup Changes

For the first time in a long time, Tony Vitello made some major lineup changes. Vitello inserted three players who have not started frequently in recent months if at all this season into his lineup for the SEC Tournament Semifinals.

Tennessee started Ariel Antigua at shortstop, Cannon Peebles behind the plate and Dalton Bargo at the third base while Billy Amick moved to designated hitter.

So how did the players inserted into the starting lineup fare? Mostly good.

Peebles had a fantastic night going two-for-three at the plate with a RBI sac fly to left field in the fourth inning. Dalton Bargo went one-for-two with a RBI sac fly of his own and a walk.

Antigua had by far the worst day of the trio. Dean Curley pinch hit for Antigua in the sixth inning after he went zero-for-two with a pair of strikeouts and a fielding error.

Vitello decided to give some players different opportunities in the semifinals. They mostly paid off.

Marcus Phillips Takes Tennessee To Finish Line

Once Tennessee went to the bullpen, they turned to Marcus Phillips. He hadn’t been in many high leverage moments this season and pitched poorly against Vanderbilt on Wednesday.

It wasn’t perfectly clean but he got it done.

Phillips pitched a clean one-two-three seventh inning. But he allowed a run in the eighth inning and the go-ahead run came to the plate when Vanderbilt loaded the bases with two-outs. Matthew Polk grounded out back to Phillips to end the inning.

It got dicey again for Phillips in the ninth inning when Vanderbilt’s first two batters reached and then advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. But once again, Phillips pulled through getting out of the jam with a pop out and two fly outs.

Box Score

Up Next

Tennessee baseball returns to the field at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday where they’ll face LSU in the SEC Tournament Championship game. The Vols are looking for their second SEC Tournament title in three years.

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