HOOVER, Ala. – No. 9 seed Tennessee was eliminated from the SEC Tournament with a 5-3 loss to No. 8 seed Auburn on Tuesday evening at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Much like the regular-season series between the two teams down On the Plains, Tuesday’s game was a nail bitter for the majority of the night and was deciding by pitching, defense and timely hits.
UT struggled for most of the night against the Tigers’ pitching staff, recording just four hits in the game. Two of those hits came off the bat of Andre Lipcius, who had a pair of singles in the first and third innings.
The duo of Judd Ward and Edouard Julien combined for four of the Tigers’ seven hits and drove in all five of their runs on the night as Auburn recorded their fourth victory of the year against the Orange and White.
The Vols jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after a pair of singles by Lipcius and Alerick Soularie and a sacrifice fly by Jake Rucker in the top of the first but were unable to generate much offensively after that.
The Tigers took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the second, scoring two runs on two hits, neither of which was particularly well struck. A two-out bloop double to shallow center field by Julien plated both runs in the inning. Vols’ shortstop Ricky Martinez made an incredible play one batter later to save a run and get Tennessee out of the inning, ranging to a chopper up the middle before throwing a strike on the run to retire Kason Howell at first base.
The Big Orange pulled even with the Tigers in the top of the fifth, scoring a run despite not recording a single hit in the inning. Christian Scott led off the inning with a walk and scored to tie the game at two after three wild pitches by Auburn pitchers.
Auburn raced right back in front with a run in the bottom of the fifth to take a 3-2 lead. Ward drove in Julien from third with a perfectly executed bunt single to cap a string of three consecutive singles by Tiger hitters. UT starter Garrett Stallings did well to limit the damage to just the one run, getting back-to-back strikeouts with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Stallings pitched well despite picking up the loss, tossing five solid innings, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out five.
The Tigers added some insurance in the bottom of the seventh with a big two-run homer by Ward to make it a 5-2 game. Redmond Walsh kept the Vols within striking distance with 1.1 innings of shutout relief, striking out four batters in the process.
Tennessee made things interesting in the top of the ninth, cutting the lead to two with a Zach Daniels’ pinch-hit solo home run with one out. Auburn closer Cody Greenhill hit Connor Pavolony to bring the tying run to the plate with one out before Scott nearly tied the game with a two-run homer, but his long fly out to right field was caught at the wall. Greenhill got Charleston to strike out looking on a borderline pitch to end the game.
Lefty reliever Bailey Horn got the win for the Tigers after allowing just one run on one hit while striking out six in four innings of work. UT batters struck out 13 times in the game.
100 PUNCHOUTS FOR STALLINGS: With two strikeouts in the third inning on Tuesday, Garrett Stallings reached the century mark for punchouts on the season. The junior right hander finished the game with five strikeouts and now has 103 for the year. In his previous two seasons, Stallings struck out just 76 batters combined.
BATS GONE COLD: The Vols enter Tuesday’s game on a roll offensively, having scored five or more runs 13 times over their final 18 regular-season games, but struggled mightily against Auburn on the night. UT was held to just four hits, two of which came in the first inning, and the Big Orange were held without a base hit for the final 6.1 consecutive innings before Zach Daniels’ solo home run in the top of the ninth.
UP NEXT: Tennessee will now wait and see if it is selected for this year’s NCAA Tournament. Multiple college baseball sites have the Vols projected to make the field of 64. The NCAA Baseball Selection Show takes place on Monday, May 27 at noon ET and will be televised on ESPNU.