STATESBORO, Ga. – No. 16 Tennessee scored four runs in the final two innings to erase a 3-1 deficit and come out with a 5-3 victory over Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore outfielder Drew Gilbert hit two home runs, including a 2-run shot in the ninth inning to out the Vols (2-0) ahead for good.
Junior third baseman Jake Rucker drove in UT’s other two runs with a clutch 2-out single in the eight inning to tie the game at three.
Redmond Walsh got the win after picking up the save in Friday’s series opener. The redshirt senior lefty tossed two shutout innings in relief, allowing a pair of hits.
Vols’ true freshman pitcher Blade Tidwell got the starting nod in his collegiate debut and was solid in four innings of work, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits while fanning a pair of Eagles’ hitters.
Georgia Southern also started a true freshman on the mound in Chase Dollander, who was impressive in his collegiate debut, allowing just one run on three hits while racking up eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work.
The Eagles opened the scoring on a passed ball in the bottom of the second to take a 1-0 lead, but that lead was short-lived as Gilbert led off the top of the third with a solo homer to right center to knot the game up at one.
GSU regained its lead with a run in the fourth, taking advantage of a two-out walk when Jason Swan ripped a double off the wall in right field to score the runner from first and give the Eagles s 2-1 advantage. They added another run in the fifth on a two-out RBI single by Mason McWhorter.
The Vols finally broke through in the eighth thanks to a clutch two-out single by Rucker, who drove in Jorel Ortega and Christian Scott to tie the game at three. Ortega walked to lead off the inning and Scott followed with a single in center field for his first hit of the year.
After turning an inning-ending double play to cap the eighth, Tennessee completed its comeback with two more runs in the ninth. Connor Pavolony led off the inning with a walk to set the stage for Gilbert, who blasted the first pitch he saw over the right-field wall to give the Big Orange a 5-3 lead.
The Vols will go for the sweep in the series finale tomorrow at 1 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and fans can listen to John Wilkerson call the action on UTSports.com.
Gilbert Going Yard: Drew Gilbert had himself an afternoon with a pair of massive home runs for the Vols. His solo shot in the third tied the game at one while his 2-run blast in the ninth provided the game-winning runs for UT. Saturday marked the first two-homer game for Gilbert in his career.
Rucker Comes Up Clutch: With Tennessee trailing 3-1 and struggling at the plate, Jake Rucker proved why he was a preseason All-American, coming up with a clutch 2-out single to score a pair of runs and tie the game at three in the eighth inning, setting the stage for Gilbert’s go-ahead homer in the ninth.