Top-ranked Vols complete sweep at Mississippi State
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Concluding the best regular season in program history, the No. 1 Tennessee baseball team claimed its ninth series sweep of the season, defeating Mississippi State, 10-5, at Dudy Noble Field Saturday afternoon.
Tennessee totaled 49 wins in the 2022 regular season. The previous best record going into postseason play in program history was a 45-11 mark set in 1994. The Volunteers also went 25-5 in Southeastern Conference play. UT is only the third team in league history to compile 25 conference wins.
Evan Russell highlighted the day with a milestone home run in the fifth inning, a solo shot that marked his 38th career blast. With the big fly, Russell tied VFL Todd Helton for the program record in career home runs. The Tennessee backstop has accounted for 13 homers this season, adding 42 RBIs. He is just one homer and one RBI away from tying his season-best figure in both categories.
The Vols trailed early as RJ Yeager hit a leadoff home run, but that lead would not last long for Mississippi State (26-30, 9-21 SEC) as SEC Player of the Year candidate Trey Lipscomb mashed his 21st homer of the year, a towering two-run blast to left center in the top of the second inning that gave Tennessee a lead it would never relinquish.
Jorel Ortega added to the offensive showcase with another two-run homer in the third inning, his third big fly of an incredible series for the second baseman. An inning later, Tennessee executed a perfect delayed steal, thanks to Luc Lipcius, who got in the rundown and opened up a window for Seth Stephenson to scamper home from third base.
The Vols added two more runs on the offensive side thanks to a two-RBI double down the right field line by Drew Gilbert and an RBI groundout from Ortega, but it was yet another stellar bullpen outing from junior Kirby Connell that stood out in the late innings. The southpaw entered with the bases loaded in the fourth and stranded all three runners. The Blacksburg, South Carolina, native threw 2.2 perfect innings and struck out one Bulldog while earning his third win of the year.
Tennessee handed Mississippi State its third consecutive weekend sweep as the defending national champions failed to make the SEC Tournament.
HISTORIC WEEKEND: Tennessee earned the program's first ever sweep in Starkville. The Vols only had one three-game sweep of Mississippi State prior to this weekend, coming in 2015.
MISSISSIPPI (KINGS), IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN: The Volunteers earned road sweeps at both Ole Miss and Mississippi State in 2022. Tennessee's last loss to a team from the state of Mississippi came back in 2019.
BEST OF THE BBCOR: Tennessee has bashed 137 home runs this season, the most of any team in the BBCOR era which began in 2011.
LEAVE NO DOUBT: At the end of the regular season, Tennessee held a 10-game lead in the SEC Eastern Division.
UP NEXT: Tennessee gears up for the 2022 SEC Tournament where it will face either Vanderbilt or Ole Miss at 4:30 p.m. CT/5:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 25, at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama. Tickets for the tournament are available for purchase by clicking here.