The No. 15 Tennessee baseball team needed 11 innings to capture the win in its weekend series finale against Indiana State at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Sunday afternoon. After the 6-5 win, the Vols improve to 7-2, while the Sycamores drop to 3-4 overall.
“There was tension there for sure,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “I think Redmond kinda just willed us to a spot where our guys got a little delirious in the dugout. Whatever happened, it didn’t come or stem from me. I think, again, it was them feeding off the guy who took on a leadership role late in the game. The guys just started to relax a little bit. We did what we had to do in the field, in between the lines but you just felt much better in the dugout that inning. Hopefully, that tension that was there, won’t creep back next time we are in extra innings again.”
Max Ferguson was the big bat for the Vols this afternoon. The second basemen went 1-4 with two RBI and a walk, after dropping to the seven spot in the lineup. Jordan Beck continued his solid approach at the plate, finishing with two hits, an RBI and a run scored. Pete Derkay and Connor Pavolony were the other Vols to plate runs, each driving in one apiece.
The Vols jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Derkay singled in Liam Spence on a 2-2 count. Beck followed that up with a single to left field, advancing Jake Rucker, and scoring Derkay. The final run of the inning came off the bat of Pavolony, who helped Rucker cross home plate with a sac-fly to left field.
Tennessee would increase its lead in the bottom of the fifth after Ferguson belted a double to left field, bringing home Beck and Rucker to leave the game 5-0, Vols.
Jackson Leath made his first start of the year but left the game with a leg injury after facing just three batters. Sean Hunley entered in relief and dominated through 5.2 innings. The senior faced 21 batters and only allowed two hits and a walk, while surrendering two runs and striking out six.
Walsh closed out the game for the Vols. The veteran closer surrendered unearned three runs, scattered three hits and struck out five over 4.2 innings.
“In the eighth, we made the error and I was a little bit relaxed,” Walsh said. “I think the next guy was a four-pitch walk and they just kinda jumped on me. They saw a little bit of momentum spike right there and they just kinda hit me around. My changeup away, they hit it down the line and the fastball went up the middle. Two good at-bats for them and just two pitches that I left a little over the plate, so they took advantage of me making a mistake.”
The eighth inning got a little uncomfortable for Tennessee. With Walsh pitching, Josue Urdaneta reached base after a throwing error from Ferguson. Walsh then walked Max Wright with two outs to put runners at first and second in a 5-2 ballgame.
Diego Gines doubled to left field, scoring Urdaneta and advancing Wright to third. Wright would then score on a wild pitch with Gines reaching third base, cutting the deficit to one. The final run of the inning was driven in by Brian Fuentes who platted Gines with a single up the middle, tying the ballgame at five.
Neither team scored in the ninth or 10th innings until Tennessee broke through with the game-winning run. Luc Lipcius walked to start the inning. Spence hit a hard grounder to third base, which resulted in a throwing error, putting Lipcius at third and Spence at second with no outs. Derkay was intentionally walked to juice the bases.
Rucker smoked another ball to third, which resulted in another misplaced throw, this time to home plate and Lipcius was able to score, giving Tennessee the 6-5 victory.
“What I’ve learned is that we are going to compete in all nine innings and extras if that happens,” Spence said. “We’ve got top-of-the-lineup order type hitters through the whole nine and on the bench. It is just people who grind out at-bats for each other and are just all for the team and will do whatever it takes to help the guy behind him.”
Tennessee will face-off against Dayton on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Lindsey Nelson Stadium for its next game.