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Tennessee’s Pitching Inspiring Confidence Entering College World Series Finals

Zander Sechrist pitches against Florida State in the College World Series // Photo via UT Athletics

OMAHA, Neb. — Zander Sechrist tossed 6.1 strong innings for Tennessee in its 7-2 victory over Florida State on Wednesday afternoon, helping the Vols advance to the College World Series Finals for just the second time in program history.

The crazy parts: not only was it not even a little surprising but it wasn’t even his best start of the NCAA Tournament.

“Zander is just throwing the heck out of it and got a really low pitch count,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said postgame. “Zander wouldn’t let you take the ball out of his hand today.”

Florida State hit back-to-back solo home runs to run Sechrist from the game with one out in the seventh inning, but the senior left-handed pitcher held them at bay the rest of afternoon.

The biggest swing point in the game came in the third inning when the Seminoles put runners on second and third with no one out but couldn’t add a run thanks to a combination of strong pitching, good defense and poor base running. Dean Curley cut off the lead runner at home on a chopper and then the Vols got out of the jam with a 3-6 double play.

“It was nuts. I’m not even quite sure what happened on Dean’s play. He made such a good play,” Vitello said. “The next play, just an outstanding job by Zander of keeping his composure.”

The Seminoles didn’t have any more luck against Tennessee’s bullpen arms. Kirby Connell came in and tossed 1.2 scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and Nate Snead pitched a scoreless ninth inning following a leadoff single.

More From RTI: Tennessee Baseball Sets New NCAA Record In Win Over Florida State

It was just the fourth game all season that Florida State scored two or less runs and the first time in the postseason. In their previous three College World Series games, the Seminoles were averaging nine runs per game.

Tennessee’s pitching has been its biggest question mark all season and when Florida State totaled 11 runs against the Vols in game one it felt bigger than ever. But Tennessee’s pitching has responded as well as possible since.

Drew Beam turned in his best start of the postseason in Sunday’s 6-1 win over North Carolina while Connell and Snead have been fantastic in two straight games.

“The position we put ourselves in, Kirby, Snead, Combs and there’s others, but those have been — our main three guys are fresh as a daisy,” Vitello said.

Tennessee didn’t even have to use Aaron Combs, who’s been its most reliable arm the back half of the season, in either of its last two games. The pitching staff that seemed thin for a large chunk of the season is all of a sudden so deep that it hasn’t used one of its best arms.

With two off days before its College World Series opener, the Vols’ starting pitching will be well rested and completely flipped over. That bodes well for Tennessee, but the way different pitchers have stepped in different roles is the most encouraging thing for a pitching staff that’s rising to the occasion.

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