The Tennessee Volunteers punched their ticket to the College World Series on Sunday with a convincing 15-6 victory over LSU. The win, coupled with a 4-2 victory on Saturday, completed a two-game sweep over the Bengal Tigers and Tennessee is headed to Omaha for the first time since 2005. After finishing second to Arkansas in the SEC Tournament a couple of weeks ago, then next sweeping through the regional tournament, the Vols are playing their best baseball at just the right time. They're 8-2 in the post season so far, with five straight wins in the NCAA Tournament.
With North Carolina State's shocking upset of top seed and top-ranked Arkansas in the Super Regional over the weekend, that leaves Tennessee and rival Vanderbilt as the prohibitive favorites when the CWS begins this weekend.
It almost feels that Tennessee is destined to win a national championship after floundering through the past decade or so, some years not even qualifying to play in the SEC Tournament. Being a team of destiny at this stage of the game is easy to see but only when the entire process is over.
If you believe in destiny, you would probably believe that the Volunteers are one of those teams. Personally, I do believe in teams of destiny. The 1998 football Vols were one of those teams because of the way they always seemed to find a way to win, no matter how bad things looked. There were signs in the very first game of the season when Tennessee had to rally to beat Syracuse on the road. And who could forget the Arkansas game later in the season. It was going to take a miracle to get the ball back, trailing the Hogs with less than two minutes left when Billy Ratliff recovered a fumble, after Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner stumbled and dropped the ball on the ground. The Vols handed the ball to Travis Henry who carried the ball five straight times, scoring the winning touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. I knew at that moment that the top-ranked Volunteers had a real chance to play for a national title and, when it was all over, following a Fiesta Bowl win over Florida State in Tempe, Arizona, I proudly proclaimed that Tennessee was a team of destiny.
All things are pointing that way with this Tennessee baseball team. For instance, trailing Wright State in the opening round of the NCAA Regionals 8-5 in the ninth inning, Drew Gilbert walked it off with a grand slam home run, giving the Vols a 9-8 win in dramatic fashion. At that moment, I began to think about the team's destiny, though I still wasn't convinced. And with defending national champ Vanderbilt being in the final eight in Omaha, it's still not clear about Tennessee's destiny.
Whether they actually win it or not, it's been a lot of fun to watch this team all season long. Fifty wins so far for Tennessee proves they're a legitimate contender. Hard work, talent and a little bit of luck = destiny.
Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com