KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Jordan Beck smashed a go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning that lifted the top-ranked Volunteers over No. 17/19 Auburn, 5-3, in the Sunday rubber match at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The victory marked Tennessee's 40th victory of the season. The Vols have reached the 40-win mark in just 44 games, tying the 2000 South Carolina team for the fewest games played to hit the milestone win by an SEC team since the league expanded in 1992.
After a solid start from Drew Beam, Ben Joyce was incredible out of the bullpen for UT (40-4, 19-2 SEC). The fireballer tossed a career-long four innings in relief, striking out six and only allowing one hit to record his second victory of the season. Joyce, facing Cole Foster in the top of the eighth, registered a fastball of 105.5 mph, believed to be the fastest pitch thrown in college baseball history. That speed would be the second-fastest recorded pitch in Major League Baseball, just 0.3 mph behind Aroldis Chapman, who threw 105.8 mph pitch as a Cincinnati Red against the San Diego Padres on Sept. 24, 2010.
Beck's eighth-inning blast broke a deadlocked battle between top-25 programs, as the Vols and Auburn (31-14, 12-9 SEC) traded blows throughout the day.
Tennessee raced ahead early, scoring three runs in the first inning. With two runners in scoring position, Drew Gilbert hit a sacrifice fly to center field to open the scoring before Trey Lipscomb stepped to the plate and hit his 18th long ball of the season, a line drive off the scoreboard that scored Beck and put UT up 3-0 in the opening frame.
Auburn struck back in the fifth and sixth innings, tying the ballgame at three apiece. With runners on first and second and no outs, Joyce took over for Beam, getting a first pitch double play ball. He then forced a groundout to escape the inning with no further damage allowed.
Beck's go ahead blast could not have come at a more important moment, as Tennessee could only muster two hits off of Auburn starter Joseph Gonzalez after the first inning. Luc Lipcius set the table with a single through the right side, then Beck put a charge into a 2-2 hanging off speed pitch, launching it high over the porches in left to give UT a 5-3 lead, all it would need to finish off the win.
UP NEXT: The Volunteers conclude their homestand with another team from the state of Alabama as the Big Orange welcome Alabama A&M to Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Tuesday, May 3, at 6 p.m. The game will be streamed live on SEC Network+ and the ESPN app.
NOTABLE LUCKY 11s: Tennessee recorded its 11th consecutive series victory, dating back to last season. The Vols also won their first series against Auburn since 2011, when UT also was victorious in Games 1 and 3.
CAREER DAY FOR THE VOLUNTEER FIREMAN: Ben Joyce set new career-bests in innings pitched (4.0) and walks allowed (0), while tying his highest strikeout total (6) in game. According to Tennessee's Yakker Tech data tracking system, Joyce threw 28 pitches that were clocked at 103 mph or faster. Of those 28 pitches, 15 were 104 mph or faster and three were 105 mph or faster.