Top-Ranked Vols Win 5th SEC Tournament Championship; Lady Vols Fall To Alabama

  • Sunday, May 26, 2024

Top-ranked Tennessee secured its fifth Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship, including its second in the last three seasons, after taking down LSU, 4-3, in Sunday's title game at the Hoover Met.

Meanwhile, 14-seed Alabama knocked off the Lady Vols in Knoxville to advance to the College World Series.

Riley Valentine's grand slam gave Alabama a 4-0 lead, then a long rain delay followed. Afterward, Tennessee was stymied until a bottom of the seven rally that brought the Lady Vol fans back to life.

The game ended with Kiki Milloy at the plate with the bases loaded, and Tennessee down 4-1. But the Lady Vol leader grounded out to end the Tennessee hopes.

The Volunteers (50-11) were led by another impressive performance from its pitching staff, highlighted by 4.2 scoreless innings from freshman lefthander Dylan Loy, who earned the win to improve to 2-0 on the year.

Loy's 4.2 innings pitched were a career high, as were his 78 total pitches. The Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, native also tied a career high with five strikeouts and allowed just two hits on the day while retiring seven consecutive batters at one point.

Backing up Loy were Kirby Connell and Aaron Combs, who combined for four strikeouts and finished the game by pitching the final 3.1 innings. Connell retired the side in order in the seventh and eighth innings before running into some trouble in the ninth and handing the ball off to Combs, who stifled LSU's late rally and ended the game with back-to-back strikeouts to strand the tying run at second base and earn his fifth save.

Hunter Ensley led the way offensively with a 4-for-4 day at the plate, including a two-out RBI single in the top of the seventh inning that turned out to be the game-winning hit.

Billy Amick broke out of his recent slump with a massive three-run homer to left field to put the Vols ahead 3-1 in the third inning. The junior third baseman also drew a walk and reached on an error in the contest.
Blake Burke, who was named the tournament's MVP, scored two runs and also added a pair of hits to give him a team-high nine for the tournament.

UT had to withstand a ninth-inning rally from the Tigers, which was aided by a couple of defensive miscues, but was able to hold on after LSU scored a pair of runs in the inning.

After going 4-1 this week, Tennessee is now 11-5 overall in the SEC Tournament under head coach Tony Vitello and has made three championship game appearances in the last four years.

Kavares Tears was named to the SEC All-Tournament Team as an outfielder, joining Burke, who made the team at first base on top of earning MVP honors.

STAT OF THE GAME: With Sunday's victory, the Vols have now reached the 50-win mark in three of the last four seasons and are the only program in the country to do so. Prior to Vitello's arrival, UT had won 50-plus games in a season just twice in program history, accomplishing the feat during back-to-back years in 1994 and 1995.

UP NEXT: Tennessee will learn its seed and opponents for next weekend's NCAA Knoxville Regional during the NCAA Selection Show, which will air Monday at noon ET on ESPN2.

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