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Vols Outmatch Tarheels, Start CWS 2-0

OMAHA, NE- Tennessee and North Carolina entered the winner’s bracket following opening round victories in the College World Series on Friday. Each made waves across the country, marking the first time in event history when each game ended via walk-offs.  The Tar Heels finished off Virginia with a base hit from Vance Honeycutt, while Tennessee completed a furious ninth inning comeback with a double off the bat of Dylan Dreiling.  

In situations where many teams could and likely would have folded, the Volunteer offense oozed with confidence, even against a strong Florida State team.  “With this offense we’re always one inning away.  That’s kind of our motto this year.  And we just had a belief that a big inning was coming and just trusting each other”.  

At first, North Carolina starter Shea Sprague held the full-of-belief Vol offense at bay, striking out three in his first three innings of work.  Sprague was handed the ball following two quality outings, earning victories over LSU and West Virginia earlier in the NCAA Tournament. 

It was the fourth inning, though, when the mighty Volunteer offense awoke.  Following a single from Blake Burke and Dreiling drawing a base-on-balls, Sophomore Kavares Tears smacked a hanging changeup into the Tarheel bullpen.  Tennessee added to the scoring with a home run off the bat of Reese Chapman, extending the lead to 4-0 in the fifth.  

In a matchup featuring two of the top offenses in the country, Tennessee starter Drew Beam settled in alongside Sprague, allowing just one hit in his first five innings of work.  Like the Tennessee offense, star North Carolina center fielder Vance Honeycutt put his mark on the game via the long ball.  His no doubt, solo home run cut the Volunteer lead to 4-1 in the sixth.  The Honeycutt blast, and back to back singles from Casey Cook and Parks Harber prompted Tony Vitello and Tennessee to turn to the bullpen.  

Kirby Connell entered the affair inheriting those runners on first and third with just one out.  Connell had most recently been called upon in relief against Florida State on Friday, giving up a run but striking out two in an inning of work.  Connell was able to catch Harber in a pickle and strike out Gavin Gallaher to erase the sixth inning threat. 

Without skipping a beat, Tennessee earned the fallen run back with Dean Curley driving in Colby Backus making it a 5-1 game in the home half.  Tears tacked on another run with his RBI double in the bottom of the eighth. Tennessee reliever Nate Snead was able to keep the Tarheel offense stifled, throwing two innings to send North Carolina to an elimination game against Florida State.

After the loss, Forbes feels his team has the pitching to compete with Florida State and has advised his group to not look ahead and focus on what's at hand. "If we beat Florida State, hopefully we'll have enough guys to compete against Tennessee again". On why this team has reached new heights, after a series of great teams came up short in the Tony Vitello era, the skipper stated he feels his 2024 bunch has been able to go 2-0 thanks to better locker room chemistry, identifying this team as his best yet.

Tennessee will take on the winner of UNC and Florida State at 1:00 on Wednesday.

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