KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A seven-run sixth inning helped No. 4 Tennessee pull away from Kentucky for a 11-2 win in Saturday’s rubber game at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Big Orange blasted two home runs and had six hits in their seven-run outburst in the sixth inning, none bigger than Jake Rucker’s grand slam with one out. Max Ferguson drove in the first run in the inning with a single before Rucker’s second slam of the season. Luc Lipcius went deep for the third straight game with a two-run shot later in the inning to give the Vols a commanding 11-2 lead.
Rucker finished the day with two hits and tied a career high with five runs batted in. Jordan Beck (4-for-5, R, 2B, RBI), Liam Spence (3-for-4, 2 R) and Ferguson (2-for-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI) also had big days at the plate for the Vols as they scored double-digit runs for the third time in their last four SEC games.
The Wildcats were able to scratch across a run in the top of the first on a sacrifice fly from Coltyn Kessler, scoring Austin Schultz, who hit the first pitch of the game to straightaway center field for a double.
The Vols took the lead with a two-run second inning as Beck and Pete Derkay both drove in runs. Drew Gilbert led off the inning with a double and came around to score on an RBI double by Beck before Derkay plated Lipcius with a sacrifice fly to put UT ahead 2-1. Tennessee added another run in the third when Evan Russell was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and took a 4-1 lead in the fifth on a Rucker RBI single before the big sixth inning to put the game out of reach.
Blade Tidwell improved to 5-2 on the year after giving the Vols a quality start. The freshman had five strikeouts and gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks.
Redshirt senior lefty Redmond Walsh came on in relief of Tidwell with one out in the sixth and took it home from there, tossing 3.2 shutout innings with a career-high tying five strikeouts to earn his fifth save of the year. The Louisville, Tennessee, native did not give up a hit and allowed just one runner to reach base via an error.
Coltyn Kessler was the only Kentucky player to drive in a run as the Wildcats (26-15 // 10-11 SEC) were held to just four hits for the game.
The Vols (34-11 // 14-7 SEC) will have five days between games before a road trip to Missouri next weekend.
FEELING GRAND: Jake Rucker’s grand slam in the sixth inning was the fifth hit by the Volunteers this season and the second by the Greenbrier, Tennessee, native. UT has hit at least one grand slam in every month this season.
Tennessee Grand Slams
- Liam Spence at Georgia Southern (Feb. 21)
- Drew Gilbert vs. UNCG (March 14)
- Jake Rucker at Georgia (March 19)
- Evan Russell vs. Vanderbilt (April 17)
- Jake Rucker vs. Kentucky (May 1)
GREAT IN RUBBER GAMES: Tennessee continued its success in rubber games with Saturday’s win, improving to 4-1 on the year in such contests.