Vols, Aggies advance in NCAA tournament, while Georgia bounced

 Chris Lee   in Baseball

The SEC still has eight teams playing baseball as of Monday afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Tennessee athletics.

Top-seeded Vols prove tough to beat

How do you beat Tennessee? That question has remained unanswered most of this year, and still is after the Vols--now an incredible 56-7--took care of Alabama State, Campbell and Georgia Tech (in that order) in this past weekend's Knoxville regional.

Campbell and Tech appeared--for a while--to have answers for much of Saturday and Sunday. Each jumped out to 4-0 leads against Tennessee and knocked out the Vols' starting pitchers early in each game.

The problem: you've got to get 27 outs against that lineup. On Saturday, the Vols rallied for 12 runs in the last six innings, including four in the ninth to salt away a 12-7 win. The formula on Saturday was the long ball: Jorel Ortega, Drew Gilbert, Blake Burke and Cortland Lawson each hit one, accounting for nine RBIs between their respective blasts.

On Sunday, Tennessee fell behind 4-2 heading into the top of the ninth, but scored seven in the bottom of the inning. with five different Vols contributing RBIs in that inning.  

Another difference-maker was Tennessee's bullpen. Kirby Connell ate four innings, allowing two runs and slowing the Campbell offense just enough for Tennessee to get some distance. Will Mabrey was even better on Sunday, firing 3 2/3 scoreless innings. 

The unexpected: Vol starting pitchers Chase Dollander (2 2/3 innings, four runs, two earned) and Drew Beam (3 2/3, four runs, two earned) weren't good. But consider the opposition: Georgia Tech ranks second in the country in runs scored per game, and Campbell is 11th

And that part might be important: probably no team was given a more offensive-heavy opposition in its regional than the Vols, and yet Tennessee still got through its regional unbeaten. 

Now the Vols will face the other extreme in Notre Dame, its super regional opponent. The Fighting Irish rank seventh nationally in ERA and 14th in fielding percentage. 

Aggies sweep through College Station regional

Texas A&M was the fifth national seed and looked like it, beating Oral Roberts, Louisiana and TCU by a combined 32-17. In the finale vs. TCU, the Aggies rallied for seven for a come-from-behind, 15-9 win late on Sunday. First baseman Jack Moss (who was named regional MVP) had two hits and drove in three while Dylan Rock (whom we put on our All-SEC first team) led the team with five RBIs, including a home run.

The question mark for the Aggies has been pitching beyond Nathan Dettmer and Jacob Palisch, and that didn't really get resolved this weekend. On the bright side, Micah Dallas (five innings, one run, but just one strikeout) pitched more like the Dallas that Texas A&M expected after he transferred from Texas Tech, and that helps. Palisch (three scoreless innings, all vs. Louisiana) was good again, but Dettmer (four innings, six runs vs. Louisiana) was shaky for his fifth outing in a row.

But the Aggies scored more runs than any team in the SEC in league games, and they pounded out 38 hits in three games this weekend. With a home date next weekend against either Louisville or Michigan--neither of which are good on the mound--that formula may be good enough to get the Aggies to Omaha.

Georgia bows out at UNC

Georgia didn't go quietly from the Chapel Hill regional. The Bulldogs' Chaney Rogers hit a three-run homer to cut North Carolina's lead on Sunday to 6-5 in the ninth inning. Josh McAllister darn-near tied it with a blast of his own, but UNC outfielder Vance Honeycutt instead reached over the wall to take away a would-be home run and Georgia couldn't finish from there. 

Pitcher Jonathan Cannon was the most important player the Bulldogs had, and unfortunately his late-season slide continued as he allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings vs. VCU on Friday. The Bulldogs figured to have little shot to advance without brilliance from Cannon on Friday and that proved to be the case, even though UGA spanked Hofstra, 24-1, on Saturday.

Georgia finishes the season at 36-23. We may have seen the last of brothers Cole and Connor Tate--the Bulldogs' best two lineup pieces this year--who gave Georgia fans so many thrills over the past few years (Cole's been at Georgia since 2018, and Connor, since 2019).