It was the Evan Russell show again Sunday, as the No. 6 Tennessee baseball team defeated Texas A&M 20-7, clinching the Vols’ fourth road weekend series win of the year. Tennessee trailed by a run in the seventh, but Russell homered twice, starting a scoring barrage from which the Vols never looked back.
For the first time this weekend, Texas A&M scored first, as Austin Bost launched a solo home run of Tennessee starter Blade Tidwell. The righty settled in and allowed just one walk over the next three innings.
With Tidwell cruising, the Vols’ offense went to work on the Aggies’ starter Nathan Dettmer, who was unable to get out of the third inning. Highlighted by a home run from Pete Derkay and a two-run double from Drew Gilbert, the Vols put up a four-spot to take the lead. In the fourth, Jake Rucker added to that lead with an RBI walk, and Tennessee was up 5-1.
Things imploded on Tidwell in the fifth inning, as the Aggies tied the game with five of the first six batters reaching. Tidwell gave up two walks and two hits, and committed an error as he was only able to get one out in the inning. Sean Hunley relieved Tidwell, but let one of inherited runners score before finishing the inning, and Texas A&M had a 6-5 lead.
Staring down a series loss, Tennessee’s bats exploded for a five-run rally in the seventh inning. The first two Vols reached to start the inning, and Russell struck for the first time, with a moonshot of a three-run home run that gave the Vols the lead.
Luc Lipcius went back-to-back with Russell, cranking a solo homer, his fifth of the season, and Kyle Booker scored on a wild pitch later in the inning for the Vols’ fifth run, giving them a 10-6 advantage.
From there it was all Vols, as they outscored A&M 15-1 over the last three innings. Tennessee notched a pair in the eighth, as Max Ferguson homered and Lipcius had another RBI hit, this one a single. The first baseman finished the series with four hits and three RBIs.
Tennessee exploded for eight runs in the ninth inning, its second highest scoring inning of the season, just behind an 11-run inning in February against Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Ferguson, Rucker, Gilbert and Spence each drove in runs, and the Vols capped off the afternoon with two more homers, their sixth of the day and ninth of the series.
Connor Pavolony hit his second home run of the weekend, but the biggest blow was Russell’s second three-run homer of the game. After a slow start to the season dealing with a wrist injury, the Vols’ left fielder has erupted for 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in 18 conference games. Russell leads Tennessee in both homers (12) and slugging (.626), and is second in OPS (.978).
Redmond Walsh closed the door on the Aggies over the last 2.1 innings. He struck out three en route to the 15th save of his career, good for third all-time in Tennessee’s save list.
Fresh off a series win, the Vols will start a four-game homestand with Lipscomb Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. ET, before hosting Kentucky (9-9 SEC) in a Thursday-Saturday series.