The No. 5 Tennessee baseball team narrowly escaped a trip to Cullowhee, North Carolina with a 14-12 win over Western Carolina. High scoring was the name of the game tonight, as the Vols broke out for their second-highest runs and hits total of the year, at 14 and 16, respectively.
Second baseman Max Ferguson led the Vols with a career day at the plate. From the leadoff spot, Ferguson finished a triple shy of the cycle, going 4-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and six RBIs. The junior set new a single-game high in hits and RBIs, while tying his runs scored, doubles and home runs mark.
Jake Rucker and Kyle Booker each totaled three hits and an RBI, while sophomore Jordan Beck drilled his sixth home run of the year, a solo shot in the eighth. Jackson Greer returned to the lineup after an nearly a month out and went 2-for-2 with two doubles and a pair of RBIs.
The Vols left a runner on base in the first, but scored at least once in every inning after that. They had a trio of two-run innings, but the biggest frame of the night was the four-run seventh, in which Ferguson and Greer each drove in a pair of runs.
Tennessee’s pitching was not nearly as successful as the offense was. Jake Fitzgibbons started his second straight midweek game, but made just two outs in the first before he was pulled. He allowed three hits, a walk and three earned runs.
Will Mabrey bolstered his chance to be in the weekend bullpen with a scoreless inning, and the next man, Mark McLaughlin, tossed 1.1 scoreless as well. The next five Tennessee relievers allowed at least one run, though none went more than 2.1 innings.
Lefty Redmond Walsh had another tough outing, surrendering three runs on three hits, with the biggest blow Pascanel Ferreras’ two-run homer. Walsh did earn the win, despite inflating his ERA from 1.93 to 3.20.
Sean Hunley had his second consecutive multi-run outing, as the Catamounts got to him for two runs and six hits in 2.1 innings. Hunley was unable to shut the door in the ninth, and WCU pulled within two. Kirby Connell was brought in to close the game, and induced a fielder’s choice, as Tennessee just held on to a 14-12 win.
The Vols will have little time to rest from the excitement, as No. 2 Vanderbilt comes to Knoxville for a weekend series starting Friday, with the SEC East division lead on the line.