Vols reach Knoxville regional final with humiliation of Hoosiers

Vols reach Knoxville regional final with humiliation of Hoosiers

Tennessee was the visiting team Saturday night inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium for the first time this season.

The Volunteers were also the best team, and it wasn’t the first time.

Dean Curley and Christian Moore hit two-run homers in the second inning, and Billy Amick hit a grand slam in the third as the No. 1 Vols scored the first nine runs during a 12-6 rout of Indiana. Amick’s grand slam was Tennessee’s 12th of the spring, and only the Arizona State Sun Devils had accumulated more in a single season with their 14 in 2003.

Tennessee’s 11th straight regional win in an NCAA regional tournament dating back to 2021 took four hours to complete.

“They’re a good team and it was a good win,” Vols coach Tony Vitello said afterward at a news conference. “We had a couple of bumps, but that’s going to happen this time of year.”

The Vols improved to 52-11 and advanced to the Knoxville regional final at 6 p.m. Sunday. Tennessee will play either Indiana (33-25-1) or Southern Mississippi (42-19), which defeated Northern Kentucky 6-0 on Saturday afternoon to eliminate the Norse from the four-team field.

Indiana and Southern Miss will play at noon, and the winner of that contest will have to beat Tennessee twice to advance to a super regional. If the Vols lose on Sunday night, the deciding game would be played on Monday.

“We just gave away too many free bases,” Hoosiers coach Jeff Mercer said. “They’re a great offense and they’re a great team, and they are who they are for a reason, but we put guys on base and we fell behind in the count. Obviously they’re going to do some damage with that.” and they did it.”

Indiana pitcher Connor Foley started Saturday’s game by striking out Moore. His disastrous second inning was magnified by walking Hunter Ensley with one out before Curley’s home run to left center field and then hitting Cal Stark with two outs before Moore’s shot to right center field.

Moore’s home run was his 29th this spring, extending his single-season program record, while Curley hit his 10th home run and first since the Auburn series in early April.

Tennessee took a 5-0 lead in the third inning when Moore drew a bases-loaded walk, and that would be the 91st and final pitch for Foley, who recorded seven outs and walked seven. Ryan Kraft replaced Foley and struck out Blake Burke for the second out in the third, but then Amick went deep to left field for his 21st home run of the season and third in as many games.

Vols starter Drew Beam retired the first seven batters he faced, but struggled in the third inning, allowing a three-run homer to Devin Taylor that made the score 9-3. Tennessee took a 10-3 lead in the fourth on Stark’s home run to left field, but Beam was unable to work four full innings and was replaced by Andrew Behnke, who walked Taylor to load the bases but then flied out to get out. of the problem.

Behnke pitched into the seventh inning, allowing only three hits, before being replaced by Marcus Phillips. Vitello also used Dylan Loy and Aaron Combs in relief, with Combs recording the final five outs.

“From now on, we’re going to have to go at it like it’s the only game of the season,” Vitello said, “and we’re going to have to take it one inning at a time. Arguably the most important part of this game was what Behnke did for us.”

Contact David Paschall at [email protected].