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Vols head back to College World Series for third time in four years

The Vols could have lost in the Super Regionals as the No. 1 national seed for the second time in three years. Instead, they're headed to Omaha and the College World Series for the third time in four years.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.  |  For the third time in four years, Tennessee baseball is headed to the College World Series.

The Vols punched their ticket to Omaha Sunday night with a decisive, 12-1 win over Evansville in the rubber match of the Knoxville Super Regional.

Tennessee spotted the Purple Aces a run in the top of the first inning, then tied the game in the bottom half and never looked back after that. Christian Moore got the party started with a lead-off home run, one of seven that the Vols hit on the night, tying a single-game program record.

Moore would finish with two home runs. But the real story of the game may have been Dalton Bargo. The sophomore stepped into the designated hitter role and hit two home runs.

The DH position has been the lone weak spot in Tennessee’s offense all season. Vols coach Tony Vitello has tried a variety of options, none of which have provided consistent production. Many felt that Cannon Peebles would get the nod in Sunday’s game. Instead, Vitello turned to Bargo for the first time this season, and Bargo hit two first-pitch home runs in his first two at bats to help Tennessee punch its ticket to the CWS, which will be played in his hometown of Omaha, Neb.

Also hitting home runs for Tennessee were Billy Amick, Cal Stark and Dean Curley.

Tennessee put up four runs in the second inning to take a 4-1 lead, scored four more in the third to blow the game open, then added three insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth.

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Evansville — a four-seed that stunned the college baseball world by pulling off an upset in the regionals when it knocked off No. 16 East Carolina — entered the Super Regionals as a Cinderella and had already made history in Saturday’s Game 2 of the best-of-three series. The Purple Aces became the first four-seed in college baseball history to knock off the No. 1 national seed in a Super Regional game.

On Sunday, Evansville was attempting to move further into the ranks of immortality by becoming just the fourth four-seed in history to advance to the College World Series. And they were attempting to do it in the same stadium where Notre Dame pulled off an upset over the nation’s top team in the 2022 Super Regionals.

But Tennessee did not let history repeat itself on Sunday. The Vols had hit three first inning home runs and led 4-0 in Game 2 before the wheels came off in the middle innings, and Evansville essentially dominated the game before a final inning rally gave the Vols a chance to pull close. In Sunday’s rubber match, it was Tennessee that dominated. Zander Sechrist pitched 6.1 innings while striking out six and giving up no earned runs. Four relievers then teamed up to give up no hits over the final 2.2 innings, including Nate Snead, who looked terrific in 1.1 innings pitched.

Evansville’s arms were simply used up after the first two games of the series, and Tennessee’s powerful offensive lineup made the Purple Aces pay. Starter Kevin Reed gave up three home runs, and top reliever Nate Smith — who threw over 50 pitches in Saturday’s game — gave up three more.

Tennessee’s first opponent in Omaha will be Florida State, which advanced after sweeping UConn in the Tallahassee Super Regional. Like the Vols, the Seminoles feature a powerful offensive attack.

Tennessee’s previous two CWS appearances under Vitello have flamed out early, and one challenge for the Vols will be to find a way to power through a ballpark that is notoriously difficult to hit out of. Like the last two Vols teams to make it to the CWS, this Tennessee team lives by the home run, and Lindsey Nelson Stadium is a relatively small ball park that is notoriously friendly to hitters. By contrast, Charles Schwab Field in Omaha is well-known for being unkind to deep-ball hitters, and games there are often low-scoring.

The Vols will also continue to fight a much-discussed jinx of sorts: A No. 1 national seed has not won the national championship since Miami did it in 1999.

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.  |  For the third time in four years, Tennessee baseball is headed to the College World Series.

The Vols punched their ticket to Omaha Sunday night with a decisive, 12-1 win over Evansville in the rubber match of the Knoxville Super Regional.

Tennessee spotted the Purple Aces a run in the top of the first inning, then tied the game in the bottom half and never looked back after that. Christian Moore got the party started with a lead-off home run, one of seven that the Vols hit on the night, tying a single-game program record.

Moore would finish with two home runs. But the real story of the game may have been Dalton Bargo. The sophomore stepped into the designated hitter role and hit two home runs.

The DH position has been the lone weak spot in Tennessee’s offense all season. Vols coach Tony Vitello has tried a variety of options, none of which have provided consistent production. Many felt that Cannon Peebles would get the nod in Sunday’s game. Instead, Vitello turned to Bargo for the first time this season, and Bargo hit two first-pitch home runs in his first two at bats to help Tennessee punch its ticket to the CWS, which will be played in his hometown of Omaha, Neb.

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Also hitting home runs for Tennessee were Billy Amick, Cal Stark and Dean Curley.

Tennessee put up four runs in the second inning to take a 4-1 lead, scored four more in the third to blow the game open, then added three insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth.

Evansville — a four-seed that stunned the college baseball world by pulling off an upset in the regionals when it knocked off No. 16 East Carolina — entered the Super Regionals as a Cinderella and had already made history in Saturday’s Game 2 of the best-of-three series. The Purple Aces became the first four-seed in college baseball history to knock off the No. 1 national seed in a Super Regional game.

On Sunday, Evansville was attempting to move further into the ranks of immortality by becoming just the fourth four-seed in history to advance to the College World Series. And they were attempting to do it in the same stadium where Notre Dame pulled off an upset over the nation’s top team in the 2022 Super Regionals.

But Tennessee did not let history repeat itself on Sunday. The Vols had hit three first inning home runs and led 4-0 in Game 2 before the wheels came off in the middle innings, and Evansville essentially dominated the game before a final inning rally gave the Vols a chance to pull close. In Sunday’s rubber match, it was Tennessee that dominated. Zander Sechrist pitched 6.1 innings while striking out six and giving up no earned runs. Four relievers then teamed up to give up no hits over the final 2.2 innings, including Nate Snead, who looked terrific in 1.1 innings pitched.

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Evansville’s arms were simply used up after the first two games of the series, and Tennessee’s powerful offensive lineup made the Purple Aces pay. Starter Kevin Reed gave up three home runs, and top reliever Nate Smith — who threw over 50 pitches in Saturday’s game — gave up three more.

Tennessee’s first opponent in Omaha will be Florida State, which advanced after sweeping UConn in the Tallahassee Super Regional. Like the Vols, the Seminoles feature a powerful offensive attack.

Tennessee’s previous two CWS appearances under Vitello have flamed out early, and one challenge for the Vols will be to find a way to power through a ballpark that is notoriously difficult to hit out of. Like the last two Vols teams to make it to the CWS, this Tennessee team lives by the home run, and Lindsey Nelson Stadium is a relatively small ball park that is notoriously friendly to hitters. By contrast, Charles Schwab Field in Omaha is well-known for being unkind to deep-ball hitters, and games there are often low-scoring.

The Vols will also continue to fight a much-discussed jinx of sorts: A No. 1 national seed has not won the national championship since Miami did it in 1999.

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