Dan Fleser: No One Deserved To Hold The Trophy More Than Dylan Dreiling

  • Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Dan Fleser
Dan Fleser

Tennessee’s Dylan Dreiling held the national championship trophy, cradling it like a Willie Mays basket catch, and was struck by the weight of such a special moment.

“It’s heavier than I thought,” he said

It was appropriate then that the trophy was in his hands. No Vol was better at this baseball version of heavy lifting than UT’s left-fielder. He homered for a third consecutive College World Series game Monday night. Although his two-out drive in the seventh inning barely cleared Charles Schwab Field’s right-field wall and just eluded the reach of leaping A&M right-fielder Caden Sorrell, it had the impact of a moon launch.

Dreiling’s homer, which drove in Billy Amick, came off Aggies star reliever Evan Aschenbeck. It igniting a three-run flurry that was the difference in a 6-5 victory over Texas A&M, which clinched the program’s first title.

For his efforts, Dreiling was named the CWS’s most valuable player. He made a point, though, with the trophy in hand to hail the collective effort that went into the achievement. No way did he hoist the load alone.

“This group; it’s just special,” Dreiling said. “The bond we have is unbreakable. We’re all just brothers.”

Several of Dreiling’s brothers joined him in rising to occasion of the clincher:

-Hunter Ensley, who had injured his right leg earlier in the CWS while running into an outfield wall to make a catch, scored what proved to be the winning run in the seventh all the way from first base on Kavares Tears’ double. Ensley went airborne to dive past A&M catcher Jackson Appel and stab home plate with his left hand while tumbling to the ground.

-Reliever Aaron Combs, who was a pitching hero on Saturday, allowed two hits, threw two wild pitches and committed a balk in the ninth inning. But he also struck out the side to end the game and start the celebration.

-Fellow reliever Kirby Connell struck out consecutive batters in the eighth to strand a pair of Aggies baserunners.

-After a leadoff double in the third, Blake Burke alertly advanced to third base on a ground out. The heady baserunning set up Dreiling’s sacrifice fly. Freshman Dean Curley drove in another run in the inning with a two-out single.

-Starting pitcher Zander Sechrist worked into the sixth, allowing just one run and striking out seven.

-Way back in the first inning, leadoff hitter Christian Moore got it all started with a home run.

It ended with a wild celebration. Coach Tony Vitello hugged his father, celebrated with his players and jumped into the stands briefly to celebrate with the fans.

Amid the revelry, the coach mustered the composure to consider what the Vols had accomplished and feel the same weight as Dreiling.

“If you’re in the SEC, you’re going to be a superstar player,” Vitello said. “But you need to be a good teammate and that’s what these guys were.”

* * *

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 1988. He is a member of the Tennessee Sportswriters and the U.S. Basketball Writers Halls of Fame. He can be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com.

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