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HOOVER, Alabama – No. 1 Tennessee is two wins away from its first overall SEC Tournament championship.
Sophomore right-hander Chase Dollander kept a competitive LSU team at arm’s length throughout the night for a 5-2 victory Friday in front of about 8,000 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium to advance his team to the semifinals.
The Volunteers (51-7) will play the fourth game on Saturday at approximately 9 p.m. eastern time against the winner of Kentucky and LSU, which will play a mid-afternoon, elimination game.
A win there, and the Vols will reach their second straight tournament title game. Tennessee lost the championship game to Arkansas last year and has previously only won three East Division titles from 1993-95.
The championship game will be at 3 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2. All other games are on the SEC Network.
Tennessee And LSU Coaches Have Traveled The Same Recruiting Roads
The tournament opens on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. with No. 7 seed Florida (37-21) playing No. 11 seed Alabama (31-26). No. 12 seed Kentucky (32-25) will play LSU (38-19) 30 minutes after that game ends. The Florida-Alabama winner will play No. 2 seed Texas A&M (37-17) at 5:30 p.m. before the Tennessee game.
The Vols wasted no time in electrifying the Volunteer-dominated crowd. Dollander struck out the side in the top of the first inning. He finished with nine strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings, allowing four hits and one earned run for the win to go to 9-0 on the season.
“He picked up a little steam as the game went on,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said.
“I was able to manipulate the ball any way I wanted to,” Dollander said. “Everything was working – fastball, curve, changeup. That was nice to see.”
The Tigers’ two runs in the fifth to cut their deficit to 3-2 were both aided by errors by left fielder Seth Stephenson and shortstop Cortland Lawson. No Tigers had RBIs.
LSU was limited as top hitters Jacob Berry and Cade Doughty did not play for the second straight game due to injuries.
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn Exited Hospital To Coach Friday
Tennessee went right to work in the bottom of the first as Jordan Beck tripled to right field, scoring Luc Lipciius, who had walked, for a 1-0 lead. After a wild pitch by LSU starter Ty Floyd, Beck scored for a 2-0 advantage. Floyd allowed six hits and four earned runs with three walks and five strikeouts in taking the loss to fall to 5-4.
The Vols pushed that to 3-0 in the second on a bases-loaded walk by Floyd to Jordan Beck. After LSU cut it to 3-2 in the top of the fifth, Tennessee scored two runs in the bottom half on an RBI single by Drew Gilbert and an RBI double by Jorel Ortega that chased Floyd.
Sixth-year senior walk-on Redmond Walsh allowed one hit over the last two innings for the save – the seventh of the season and 23rd of his career to tie the school career saves record set by Todd Helton in 1995 before he went on to a stellar Major League career with the Colorado Rockies.
“I’m so proud to have my name in that category,” Walsh said. “Todd Helton is probably one of the best players to ever come to Tennessee.”
Walsh, a native of Louisville, Tennessee, next to Knoxville, tied the record with the zipper on his pants busted.
“Coach always says, ‘Leave everything out on the field,'” Walsh said. “So that’s what I was trying to do.”
No. 7 seed Florida eliminated No. 3 seed Arkansas, 7-5.
No. 12 seed Kentucky eliminated No. 8 seed Vanderbilt, 10-2.
No. 2 seed Texas A&M beat No. 11 seed Alabama, 12-8.
No. 1 seed Tennessee beat No. 4 seed LSU, 5-2.
SATURDAY ON SEC NETWORK, EASTERN TIMES, ALL ELIMINATION GAMES:
Game 13 – Florida eliminated Alabama, 11-6.
Game 14 – Kentucky vs. LSU, 30 minutes after completion of above game.
Game 15 – Florida vs. Texas A&M, 5:30 p.m.
Game 16 – Game 14 winner vs. Tennessee winner, 30 minutes after completion of above game.
Game 17 – Championship Game, 3 p.m., ESPN2.
*Texas A&M and Tennessee were undefeated entering Saturday play, but each will be eliminated with first loss Saturday as each is in semifinal round, where tournament returns to single elimination. Championship game Sunday is also single elimination.