NCAA Super Regionals: Evansville vs Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Baseball Tournament was dealt a historic loss on Saturday. The top-seed Tennessee Volunteers squandered a four-run lead to the Evansville Purple Aces despite a patented outburst to start Saturday’s Super Regional Game 2. Evansville’s victory marked the first time a regional four-seed defeated the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Blake Burke launched a solo home run in the first inning on Saturday to get the scoring started for Tennessee. Dylan Dreiling and Hunter Ensley followed suit in the opening frame. The three homers bumped the Vols’ nation-leading number in that category up to 166 for the year.

In likely his last home start for the Volunteers, Drew Beam struck out five batters through 4 2/3 innings. Beam had a nice mix of swing-and-miss between the curveball and fastball through the first three innings. Evansville then attacked Beam the second time through the order. Cal McGinnis hit a two-run homer as part of a three-run frame for the Aces. McGinnis and Kip Fougerousse each drove in three runs for the Purple Aces.

“I think it just comes back to sticking to our approach, McGinnis said. “Just shortening-up and not trying to do too much with any specific pitch. I feel like I’ve done that well the first two games, so far.”

After the Vols chased Donovan Schultz in the second inning, the Aces went to Jakob Meyer. The righty recorded his first strikeout in three appearances, dating back to May 12 in a game against Indiana State. Meyer was credited with the victory against Tennessee. He dealt 32 strikes on 57 pitches, while allowing just one run in 3 2/3 innings.

The Evansville offense capitalized in two-out situations on Saturday by driving in seven runs when down to its last out in an inning. The Aces were also 9 of 18 with runners on base. Beam, along with Nate Snead, surrendered 8 runs in 5 2/3 innings for the Volunteers. Snead ended his outing with an HBP, giving way to Andrew Behnke.

Tennessee drew 10 walks and left 11 runners stranded on base. The Vols adjusted their approach in the ninth inning against Nick Smith and Shane Harris, as Evansville attempted to protect a five-run lead.

Tennessee coach Tony Vitello wish his offense would have adjusted its approach throughout the game.

“If anything you’d like to look back and maybe adjust a little bit quicker and have a plan immediately on who you’re facing,” he said. “But other than that, I don’t think there was anything to detract from that. You’ll take runs any way you can get them. But, it’d be nice to have some guys on base when you hit homers. It’s the first inning and it went down the way it did. Kind of a unique situation.”

The Vols did make an amendment to their approach in the ninth inning. Dreiling and Billy Amick both watched first-pitched strikes cross the plate, but their patience paid off with the two Vols reaching base. Smith failed to record an out and allowed two runs. Harris then entered out of the bullpen for the Aces with the bases loaded. After a sacrifice fly from Volunteer freshman Dean Curley, Smith struck out two of the next three batters. It was Tennessee’s Christian Moore that popped out to shallow center field to end the game with the bases loaded.

More NCAA history could be made Sunday in an elimination game. Will Evansville be the fourth No. 4 seed to ever make it to Omaha? Will the Vols reach Omaha for the seventh time in program history?

Tennessee will likely start left-handed senior Zander Sechrist. The Vols also have freshman Dylan Loy and Senior Chris Stamos as lefty options. Right-hander Marcus Phillips has yet to see action this weekend, but the Volunteers are sure to utilize just about any righties that have seen this Evansville lineup.

Evansville’s pitching options are more unclear. Freshman left-hander Kevin Reed hasn’t thrown in Knoxville and figures to be in the mix. Coach Wes Carroll mentioned that everyone on the staff is available. The Aces will have to stack the deck yet again against a powerful Tennessee lineup. It will likely be the in-game adjustments playing a vital role in determining who leaves Knoxville with a trip to Omaha, Nebraska, and an opportunity to outlast seven other teams for a first-ever NCAA Division I baseball title.

Logan Quinton
Logan Quinton
Logan Quinton joined Baseball Prospect Journal in March 2023 as a College Baseball Writer focusing on the Tennessee Volunteers. Follow Quinton on Twitter @LDQsports.

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