Vols take down Gators, are crowned SEC tourney champs
HOOVER, Ala. - No. 1 Tennessee secured the program's fourth SEC Tournament Championship and its first since 1995 by defeating rival Florida, 8-5, in Sunday's title game in front of 13,270 fans primarily clad in Big Orange at the Hoover Met.
Camden Sewell got the starting nod for the first time this season and was fantastic on the mound en route to earing his seventh victory of the year. The Cleveland, Tennessee, native scattered six hits but did not allow a walk in five shutout innings.
The senior right hander also continued his dominance against the Gators. In five career appearances against Florida, Sewell is 2-0 with two saves , a 0.47 ERA, 12 strikeouts and just two walks allowed in 19.1 innings pitched.
Drew Gilbert (2-for-5, R, 2B, HR, 4 RBI) and Seth Stephenson (3-for-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI) combined for five hits and drove in six of UT's eight runs on the day to lead the charge at the plate. Luc Lipcius drove in the Vols' other two runs with a two-run double in the sixth inning.
After struggling to figure out Gators' starter Carsten Finnvold for the first four innings, the Big Orange finally got to the freshman left hander in the top of the fifth, plating four runs on three hits and an error.
Evan Russell reached on a throwing error to start the inning and advanced to third on a hard-hit single from Blake Burke before scoring on a well-executed squeeze bunt by Stephenson two batters later to open the scoring. After an intentional walk to Jordan Beck loaded the bases, Gilbert came through with the biggest hit of the game, a bases-clearing double over the head of Gators' left fielder Wyatt Langford to give UT a 4-0 lead.
Tennessee (53-7, 25-5 SEC) struck for three more runs in the sixth off of UF reliever Blake Purnell thanks to a pair of two-out RBI doubles from Stephenson and Lipcius to break the game open and give the Vols a 7-0 lead.
No. 25 Florida (39-22, 15-15 SEC) broke up UT's shutout bid with three runs in the bottom of the eighth. After a leadoff walk to Langford and a groundout to second base, BT Riopelle hit his 15th home run of the year with a two-run shot that just cleared the fence in left center to cut the Gators' deficit to five.
Following back-to-back-back hits allowed by Zander Sechrist, Kirby Connell came in to record two outs and limit the damage despite giving up an RBI single to Josh Rivera that made it a 7-3 ballgame.
Gilbert quickly eased any anxiety for Vol fans with a solo homer to right field in the top of the ninth, his ninth long ball of the year, to stretch the lead back to five.
Veteran lefty reliever Redmond Walsh surrendered two runs (one earned) in the bottom of the ninth but was ultimately able to close the door and secure the victory and SEC title for Tennessee.
KINGS OF THE SEC: After winning its first SEC regular season title since 1995, Tennessee doubled down by winning its first SEC Tournament title since that same year. Prior to last season's tournament, the Vols had never even won a game in the current 12-team format, which started in 2013. They have now made back-to-back championship game appearances and gone 7-2 in that span.
UT is the third straight team to win both the SEC regular season and tournament crowns, joining Vanderbilt (2019) and Arkansas (2021). There was no tournament in 2020 due to COVID. Sunday's victory over the Gators gave the Big Orange their fourth SEC Tournament title overall. Tennessee joined the 2010 LSU Tigers as the only teams to never trail throughout the SEC Tournament.
The Vols' 2022 SEC Baseball Tournament Championship also marked the 200th overall Southeastern Conference team title for the University of Tennessee in all sports.
SEWELL SEC TOURNEY DOMINANCE: Senior RHP Camden Sewell has been downright dominant in the SEC Tournament over the past two seasons. In his last four appearances in Hoover dating back to last year, Sewell is 3-0 and has not allowed a single run in 15.0 innings of work.
5/26/21 vs. Alabama: 2.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K
5/29/21 vs. Florida: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6K (Semifinal)
5/27/22 vs. Vanderbilt: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
5/29/22 vs. Florida: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K (Championship Game)
TOTALS: 15.0 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Tennessee had three players named to the SEC All-Tournament Team while Drew Gilbert was named Tournament MVP after pounding out seven hits, scoring five runs and totaling nine RBIs over UT's four games in Hoover. The junior outfielder is the fifth Vol to win MVP honors, joining VFLs Alan Cockrell (1984), Todd Helton (1993, 1994, 1995), Steve Soper (1994) and Scott Vieira (1995).
2022 SEC All-Tournament Team
P: Chase Dollander, Tennessee
P: Sean Harney, Kentucky
C: Devin Burkes, Kentucky
DH: Jac Caglianone, Florida
1B: Jack Moss, Texas A&M 2
B: Daniel Harris IV, Kentucky
3B: Trey Lipscomb, Tennessee
SS: Ryan Ritter, Kentucky
OF: Drew Gilbert, Tennessee
OF: Wyatt Langford, Florida
OF: Caden Rose, Alabama
Most Valuable Player: Drew Gilbert, Tennessee