#1 Vols Secure Spot In SEC Tournament Semifinal With 6-5 Win Over #14 Bulldogs

  • Saturday, May 25, 2024
  • UT Sports
Blake Burke's Homerun Leads The Vols To Victory (UT Athletics)
Blake Burke's Homerun Leads The Vols To Victory (UT Athletics)

 For the third time in the last four years, Tennessee is headed to the SEC Tournament semifinals after earning a hard-fought 6-5 win over No. 14/15 Mississippi State on a muggy Friday night at the Hoover Met.

Blake Burke's eighth-inning solo home run broke a 5-5 tie and stood as the game-winning hit for the top-ranked Volunteers as they improved to 5-2 all-time against the Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament.

UT built a 3-0 lead by scoring a run each in the third, fourth and fifth innings but fell behind after Mississippi State struck for five runs, all with two outs, in the bottom of the fifth to take a 5-3 advantage.

Vols' starting pitcher Drew Beam was dominant in the early going and carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning before running into trouble in the fifth. Beam was nearly out of the inning but a foul tip into the glove of catcher Cal Stark barely popped loose and kept Bryce Chance's at-bat alive before he eventually drew a walk to load the bases.

David Mershon walked one batter later to bring in State's first run before back-to-back singles from Connor Hujsak and Dakota Jordan drove in four more runs for the Bulldogs (38-21).

Reliever Aaron Combs was able to steady the waters and keep MSU off the board for the next 2.1 innings, posting four strikeouts en route to earning his second win of the season.

The Big Orange (48-11) were able to scratch across a pair of runs to tie the game in the top of the seventh after loading the bases with one out. Pinch hitter Cannon Peebles' RBI fielder's choice scored Hunter Ensley from third before second baseman Armani Larry's throw to try and double up Peebles sailed into the netting over UT's dugout, allowing Dean Curley to score on the play, as well, and tie the game at five.

Burke led off the eighth with his 17th homer of the year, blasting a 1-1 pitch 392 feet over the right-center field wall to put the Vols back in front.

Andrew Behnke retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth before Kirby Connell and Nate Snead combined to pitch a scoreless ninth inning to slam the door. Snead recorded the final two outs to pick up his team-leading fifth save of the year.

Burke, Ensley, Curley and Reese Chapman all finished the night with multiple hits as the Vols finished with 10 total for the game.

STAT OF THE GAME: Burke reached base in all five of his plate appearances on Friday night, going 3-for-3 with two runs scored, two walks and an RBI. For the tournament, the California native leads the team with a .600 batting average, six hits, a 1.000 slugging percentage and a .714 on-base percentage.

UP NEXT: A rematch of Wednesday's SEC Tournament opener awaits the Vols on Saturday afternoon as they'll look to exact some revenge against No. 8 seed Vanderbilt at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

A win would send Tennessee to its third SEC Tournament championship game appearance in the last four years after finishing as the runner-up in 2021 and winning the title in 2022.

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