KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Just when you think you might have a reason to doubt, Tennessee baseball continues to prove why they are the number one national seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Vols rallied from behind against Campbell Saturday night and won 12-7.
After missing Tennessee's opening game of the NCAA Tournament due to being sick, Evan Russell was available for the Vols against Campbell. Russell came into the game at catcher in the bottom of the eighth inning and received huge applause from Tennessee fans at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Russell ties VFL Pete Derkay's record of games played in his career with 229 games played.
Both teams were scoreless heading into the third inning. Campbell's bats got hot in the bottom of the fourth. Third baseman Jarrod Belbin hit a two-run home run to right-center field. Then, Connor Denning reached on a fielding error by Cortland Lawson and that scored Zach Neto. To end the third inning, Ty Babin singled to right field and scored Drake Pierson. The Camels led 4-0 to start the fourth inning.
Vols sophomore pitcher and the SEC Pitcher of the Year Chase Dollander earned the start. He went 2.2 innings pitched, throwing 70 pitches, giving up two earned runs and striking out four batters.
Junior left-handed pitcher Kirby Connell entered the game for Dollander in the bottom of the third inning.
From there, Tennessee put on a show.
In the top of the fourth, Drew Gilbert doubled to right field. Then, Trey Lipscomb followed that singling to left and scoring Gilbert. That put Tennessee on the board for the first time in the game.
Second baseman Jorel Ortega hit a two-run home run to left field to score Lipscomb in the fourth. In total, the Vols hit three runs in the fourth inning cutting Campbell's lead to just one, 4-3.
Kirby Connell held the Camels scoreless in the fourth and the Vols capitalized offensively.
To start the fifth inning, Luc Lipcius walked. Jordan Beck then singled to the left side to put two runners on base for Tennessee.
Then, Gilbert showed the ice in his veins once again. He hit a two-out, two-strike, three-run home run to right-center field to score Lipcius and Beck. That gave the Vols their first lead of the game at 6-4.
To close out the fourth inning, Jorel Ortega singled down the third base side and scored Trey Lipscomb to give UT a 7-4 lead.
Kirby Connell held the Camels scoreless until the bottom of the seventh inning. Drake Pierson homered to center field, scoring Denning. That cut Tennessee's lead to one, 7-6.
Kirby went 4.0 innings pitched, giving up three hits, striking out four batters, and giving up two earned runs.
Freshman Chase Burns came out of the bullpen for Connell. With bases loaded and two outs, Burns stroked out Lawson Harrill to close the seventh inning.
Tennessee freshman Blake Burke hit a solo home run in the top of the eighth to extend UT's lead 8-6. It was Burke's 14th home run of the season, tying Tennessee's program record of home runs hit in a single season by a freshman. He ties J.P. Arencibia and Alan Cockrell.
The Camels' last run came in the bottom of the eighth inning when Denning hit a solo home run to right field.
Christian Moore kept the bats alive for Tennessee, singling up the middle in the top of the ninth and bringing home Jorel Ortega. That gave Tennessee a 9-7 lead.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Cortland Lawson sealed the deal for Tennessee. He hit a three-run home run to right field and that gave the Vols a 12-7 lead. The Vols scored four runs in the ninth.
Up next: The Vols face the winner of Georgia Tech vs. Campbell Sunday night at 7:00 p.m.