A 16-year drought came to an end for Tennessee baseball this season as they returned to the College World Series for the first time since 2005. However, they will have to wait until next year to end what is now a 20-year drought.
After losing their first game to the Virginia Cavaliers in a 6-0 upset loss, the Vols were eliminated from the event in Omaha, Neb. Tuesday afternoon with an 8-4 loss to the Texas Longhorns. That loss marked UT’s fifth straight CWS loss dating back to 2001.
Tony Vitello’s team finishes the year 50-18 in what was his fourth season and third full season on the job. Tennessee baseball lost both games after going undefeated in the NCAA Regionals and NCAA Super Regionals despite being the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and second-highest seed in the CWS, ironically only behind Texas.
Things started off strong for UT, as they took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.. Drew Gilbert scored off a Jordan Beck double, and Luc Lipcius, who was sent to third on the play, then scored off a sacrifice bunt by Pete Derkay.
Texas made it 4-2 in the bottom of the second thanks to a three-run home run by Eric Kennedy and a Cam Williams RBI out that drove in Mike Antico. However, the Vols tied it up in the top of the fourth after singles by Connor Pavolony and Liam Spence drove in Beck and Derkay respectively.
The bottom of the fourth, though, is when things broke open. A two-out single by Silas Ardoin drove in Mitchell Daly and Douglas Hodo III. Replay showed that Hodo was clearly tagged out at the plate, but the umpires upheld the call. A single by Williams that sent in Ardoin gave the a 7-4 lead after the fourth when it should have just been a 5-4 lead.
By that point, the Vols’ bats had dried up, though, and they didn’t score the rest of the way. The only scoring from then on was off a pitch that Pavolony couldn’t handle, which allowed Kennedy to score from third.. That’s what made the score 8-4.
Although Tennessee baseball had a quick exit from the College World Series, there are lots of positives to take away from this season. Provided the Vols can keep Vitello, they have a lot going for them at the moment. This was a tough loss, but Vitello has taken the program a long way in just a few years on the job, and he has generated major interest. That can’t be ignored.