HOOVER, Ala. - No. 4 Tennessee scored early and often in a 12-2 run-rule victory over No. 3 Mississippi State on Thursday at the Hoover Met.
The second-seeded Vols jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning and never looked back, earning their first win in the SEC Tournament since 2007.
Chad Dallas gave the Vols an outstanding start on the mound, holding the Bulldogs' high-powered lineup to just one run on six hits in 6.2 innings of work to earn the win. With the victory, Dallas improved to 10-1 on the year and moved into a tie for 10th on UT's single-season wins list.
Liam Spence and Max Ferguson gave the Big Orange a major jolt at the top of the order, finishing with three hits apiece while combining for four runs and five RBI. Pete Derkay had the biggest hit of the day, blasting a three-run homer during Tennessee's four-run second inning. The senior designated hitter finished 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBI.
Drew Gilbert (2 H, 2 RBI), Jordan Beck (2 H, 2 R, 1 RBI) and Connor Pavolony (2 H, 3 R, 1 BB) also had productive days at the dish for the Big Orange.
The bats were hot early as the Vols put up a four-spot in the second inning to jump out to an early 4-0 lead, scoring all four runs with two outs. Derkay opened the scoring with a three-run homer to right-center field, his third four-bagger of the year. Pavolony followed with a double and came in to score on a single by Spence one batter later.
Mississippi State responded with a run in the top of the third on a Tanner Allen RBI single. Dallas did well to limit the damage to that one run as he struck out Kamren James on a 3-2 pitch to strand the bases loaded.
Tennessee regained its four-run lead with a solo homer from Beck in the fourth, his team-leading 14th blast of the season. The Big Orange added two more runs in the fifth to extend their lead to 7-1. Spence led off the inning with a single and came in to score on an RBI single by Gilbert. Ferguson scored the second run of the inning as the Vols executed a double steal to tag on another run.
After the Bulldogs were able to scratch across a run in the top of the eighth, UT tagged All-SEC reliever Landon Sims for four runs on five hits in the bottom of the inning to take a 10-run lead and put the run rule into effect.
Tennessee (43-15) moves on to face the loser of today's game between No. 6 seed Florida and No. 10 seed Alabama in another elimination game. That contest is schedule for Friday at 4 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. Winner will advance to Saturday's semifinals.
A HOOVER WIN: Tennessee snapped a seven-game losing streak at the SEC Tournament with Thursday's victory over Mississippi State. Prior to Thursday, the Vols' last win in Hoover was a 6-4 victory over Vanderbilt on May 23, 2007. UT also improved to 4-2 against the Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament with the win.
CHEESE BREAKS INTO TOP 10: Junior starting pitcher Chad Dallas earned his 10th victory of the year on Thursday, moving into the top 10 in a single season in program history. The Texas native is tied with five other players on the list: James Adkins (2005), Wyatt Allen (2001), Jamie Bennett (2000), Michael Cosgrove (1997) and Ryan Meyers (1995).
His 10 wins are the most by a Tennessee pitcher since 2005 when Adkins had 10 and Luke Hochevar set a program record with 15.