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Tennessee Tops Vandy 6-4 in SECT Semis, Meets LSU for Championship

By Doug Kyle

Head Coach Tony Vitello's Tennessee Volunteers came into the 2024 Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament as co-champions and considered already to have a Top 8 seed/hosting locked up even if they went "two and 'que" before heading home.

But, as other high seeds were fading, when they played teams with more to prove, with a 6-4 win over Vanderbilt Saturday evening, Tennessee has made it to the Championship Game on Sunday afternoon, where they will face LSU, a perennial contender but this year, one of those sub-.500 teams with work to do and something to prove to the NCAA this week.

So, we have a clash of styles lined up, and two teams who've taken a different route to the battle for the automatic NCAA bid and the formality of more hardware for the trophy case.

LSU floundered during the regular season but has turned it on at just the right time, eliciting comparisons to the 2022 Ole Miss team which was considered the last team into the bracket and wound up the last one still in it when the other 63 names had been scratched through. The Tigers have gone undefeated in the SEC this week, winning seven straight now after slogging through the first nine weeks of conference play at 10-17.

Tennessee trailed wire-to-wire leader Kentucky the entire season and stayed close enough that they moved into a tie with the Wildcats for the SEC East and overall championship, and by virtue of taking the head to head series 2-1, won the #1 seed at the end of the regular season. They lost to Vanderbilt 13-4 earlier in the week, but the win in the Semifinals over the Commodores gives them a 3-2 edge in the five games the rivals played in 2024.

In the next game after Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin moved past Ron Polk and Skip Bertman for most coaching wins in the SEC Tournament, his team couldn't pull another out, staying close but leaving the tying run on deck as the ninth inning and game ended.

The Commodores have likely done enough to hear their name called in the Selection Show on Memorial Day Monday, but they won't know for sure until then. It's expected to be a foregone conclusion, but Tennessee should hear their fate Sunday night, when the NCAA announces its 16 hosting sites, which also carry a 1 seed designation in each location. The Top 8 also retain priority in the next round, Super Regionals, which matches regional winners.


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