It took 11 innings, four pitchers and a 9th inning rally, but No. 1 Tennessee left Gainesville, Florida, on Sunday with a win and a sweep over the Gators.
On their way to the best start in SEC history at 17-1, the Vols picked up an 8-2 win Friday, a 3-0 win Saturday and a 6-4 win Sunday afternoon.
It took Tennessee a while to get the bats going Sunday, due in large part to some tremendous pitching from the Gators.
“I think we just weren’t picking up the slider well,” Christian Moore said. “He threw a lot of sliders to start batters, to end batters. The key for us was to pick up on the slider. We put good swings on it the whole game but couldn’t find holes. That’s part of baseball, you got to keep grinding out.”
Florida led for eight innings, but Tennessee had perhaps its biggest inning of the season in the ninth. Down 4-1, Jorel Ortega led off the inning with a solo home run to make it a two-run game.
“Coach V always says the games not over until the umpires are in the locker room and they stay in there,” Moore said. “We kind of live by that. When we’re away we get nine at bats and we’re going to grind away at every at bat.”
Then with two outs gone and bases loaded, Moore had the biggest hit of his young career. The freshman drilled the ball through the left side of the field to drive in Seth Stephenson and Trey Lipscomb and make it a tie ball game.
“I faced him before earlier in the game and he jammed me on an inside fastball, so going into that at bat I was thinking kind of get my foot down early, cheat the heater, peek through it again,” Moore said. “And I got a pretty good swing on it to score two runs and tie it up in the ninth.”
Florida left a runner stranded at third in the bottom of the ninth and the Vols hung on to head into extra innings.
The biggest hit of Moore’s career held up for less than two innings, because in the top of the 11th he hit a two-run home run that would end up being the game winning play.
“It felt amazing,” Moore said. “Close game, bottom of the eleventh is kind of something you dream of as a kid, to hit a go-ahead home run. I put a pretty good swing on it on the fast ball and it went over and I got to celebrate with my teammates.”
If the Vols hadn’t had enough dramatics already, Christian Scott robbed Florida’s Jud Fabian of a home run to end the game.
“Our guys played well today, but more than anything they fought well,” head coach Tony Vitello said. “And they seemed to fight together too. Some guys got called upon who aren’t everyday players and they did very well for us.”
Vitello made his return to the dugout after a four-game suspension, and he got exactly what he needed out of his guys to ensure a win.
“Just a tremendous character win by our guys,” Vitello said. “It kind of bailed me out because I would’ve looked like a clown coming back and ruining things the way the team’s been playing.”