Tennessee Cold Clocks ‘Cats 12-2 At Midnight Behind ‘Emotional’ Chase Burns; Meets Florida For SEC Tournament Title Today

HOOVER, Alabama — Kentucky’s unlikely bid to win the SEC Tournament as a 12 seed for the automatic NCAA invite ended appropriately – shortly after 12 eastern Sunday, drowning under the colors of pumpkins in a 12-2 loss to No. 1 seed Tennessee.

Tennessee wore gray, but those bright orange, pumpkin-sized batting helmets kept circling the bases in the eighth and ninth innings for 10 runs – four in the eighth and six in the ninth. And the Vols will play in the SEC Tournament championship game Sunday (3 p.m., ESPN2) against No. 7 seed Florida.

Tennessee (52-7) will try to win its first overall SEC Tournament title after losing it to Arkansas, 7-2, here last season.

“I thought our guys were loose. Not a lot of crazy talk. Just playing baseball,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said.

Kentucky (33-26) was trying to become the first 12 seed in the current tournament format to reach the championship game after becoming the first 12 seed to win a game in the current format and finishing 3-2. The Wildcats were also attempting to do something equaly impressive – become the only team to beat Tennessee three times this season as they are already the only team to beat the Vols twice, winning a three-game series May 5-7 in Lexington.

“I’m not a very emotional guy on the mound,” said Tennessee freshman right-hander Chase Burns, who relieved starter Drew Beam in the fourth and held Kentucky to three hits and two runs over four and two-thirds innings for the win to go to 8-1. He was very emotional after several of his eight strikeouts in this game, though.

“In a situation like that against a team that got us in the regular season, I had to give a little bit more,” he said.

Now, he can’t wait to see his teammates try to make amends for the tournament title loss last year.

“They always told me it sucks to lose that game,” said Burns, a Gallatin, Tennessee, native who watched the game last year. “Growing up, I always watched it, so it’s going to be awesome to be able to be in that spot.”

The Gators (39-21) defeated No. 2 seed Texas A&M, 9-0, Saturday to reach their first tournament title game since 2016 and last won it in 2015. Tennessee swept a three-game series at Florida in the regular season.

Kentucky tied the game 2-2 in the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Hunter Jump and Daniel Harris IV and a wild pitch by Burns, but the Vols took a commanding 6-2 lead in the eighth as Cortland Lawson had a two-run double in the four-hit inning.

Tennessee Has SEC Tournament Score To Settle

In the ninth, Tennessee freshman sensation Blake Burke wrapped up the scoring with a tremendous three-run home run that landed well beyond the second fence in right field that says, “It just means more.” Runs? Drew Gilbert previously added a two-run double in the inning.

“I saw a Todd Helton-type swing,” Vitello said of Burke’s 12th home run in limited playing time and compared him to the former Vol great. “That was a Todd Helton swing. It was monstrous.”

The home run traveled over 400 feet.

“The guy’s dangerous. As long as he swings at pitches in the zone, it’s going to be fun,” Vitello said.

Lawson has a lot of fun watching Burke before the game even starts.

“Him taking BP (batting practice) every day is just a treat to watch,” he said. “It’s unreal.”

Tennessee had 11 hits in all, not counting BP. The Vols took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Jordan Beck tripled after two outs and scored on a wild pitch by Kentucky starter Magdiel Cotto. Trey Lipscomb’s RBI single made it 2-0 in the fourth inning.

Tennessee beat Florida 8-2, 3-0 and 6-4 in 11 innings in Gainesville on April 22-24.

“We can’t take them lightly,” Lawson said.

SEC TOURNAMENT SATURDAY

Florida 11, Alabama 6

Kentucky 7, LSU 2

Semifinal – Florida 9, Texas A&M 0

Semifinal – Tennessee 12, Kentucky 2

SUNDAY

Florida vs. Tennessee, 3 p.m. eastern, ESPN2

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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  1. Florida could surprise people and beat UT if the Vols leave the door open, because the Gators are extremely talented and certainly capable. They have some dudes too. That said, I must point out something that is unheard of in college baseball we are seeing. According to ESPN, 31 pitchers in all of MLB hit 100 mph at least once in 2021. UT has 3 pitchers on this year’s roster who have hit 100 mph in Joyce, Burns, and Tidwell, then on top of that I’ve seen Dollander top out around 97-98. This is something else to watch. You should see the number of scouts with radar guns in the stands for their games. It looks like they have an entire section.

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