The No. 12 Tennessee baseball team finished off the sweep of No. 22 LSU after another stellar start from true freshman Blade Tidwell. After the 3-2 win at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, the Vols sit at 21-4 overall and 5-1 in the SEC, while the Tigers fall to 16-8 overall and 1-5 in the conference.
“I think it’s a self-belief thing and you need everybody to have their self-belief,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “When it kind of spins downhill for the whole team, now it’s a team belief thing. I think they feel good about any situation that they are left in during any game and part of that is our own doing. We’ve put ourself in some really tough circumstances but we’ve also worked our butts off to put themselves in some interesting situations, so we’ve kind of seen them all. I think you can get the ball spinning for you with some days like today.”
Liam Spence sat at the top of the Vols’ lineup and provided them some activity on the bases. The Australian import tallied three hits and crossed home plate twice. Drew Gilbert, Jordan Beck and Luke Lipcius were slotted in the middle of the order and they all drove in runs.
LSU recorded nine hits on the evening but left seven runners on the bases in part to their nine strikeouts. Jordan Thompson shined the brightest for the Tigers with two hits and an RBI. Cade Beloso drove in the second run for LSU, a solo shot.
Sunday’s matinee only required three runs to win with Tennessee accomplishing the feat. It started in the first inning with Gilbert reaching on a fielder's choice to give Pete Derkay enough time to cross home plate. The second run of the game came in the bottom of the third after Beck grounded-out to the second baseman to give Tennessee a 2-0 lead.
LSU would answer in the top of the four with Beloso hitting a 2-1 pitch behind the left-field porch to plate one run. The Tigers continued to add pressure in the sixth inning. Thompson came to the plate with two runners on and two outs. The Tiger shortstop ripped a pitch back up the middle to drive Gavin Dugas home, tying the game at two.
The next run would cross home until the bottom of the eighth. Leading off was Spence who reached base after hitting a single to center field. Derkay hit a ball to shortstop, but the only play was to first as Spence reached second safely. The Tigers intentionally walked Jake Rucker and Gilbert to load the bases for Beck with just one away. Beck struck out on three pitches, putting Lipcius at the plate with two gone. Lipcius took a 2-2 pitch into centerfield to drive in the game-winning run.
Tidwell continued to impress in SEC play, this time by de-toothing the Tigers for the win. The righty scattered eight hits and two runs over 5.2 innings of work. The true freshman struck out seven batters and walked just one. Sean Hunley’s dominant weekend continued after allowing just one hit through 2.1 shutout innings.
“It says a lot,” Hunley said. “There are a lot of guys in the bullpen who come in and want to do their job for the team. There are a lot of guys that can throw strikes and a lot of guys that want to compete and want to get out there and help their team win. It’s been a lot of fun in that bullpen this year.”
LSU countered with A.J. Labas who pitched exceptionally as well. The redshirt junior twirled 7.0 innings of two-run ball while allowing just six men to reach base. Garrett Edwards entered out of the bullpen and wasn’t able to complete his lone inning of work. He recorded just two outs, walked two and gave up the game-winning run to earn the loss.
The Vols' next game will be a midweek matchup against Western Carolina at Lindsey Nelson Stadium at 6:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday.