Tennessee eliminates Mississippi State in SEC Tournament

Published 11:02 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

HOOVER, Ala. — Mississippi State experienced the thrills of a one-run victory early in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, and the agonies of a one-run loss later on.

Blake Burke hit a solo home run in the top of the eighth inning, and Tennessee overcame a two-run deficit to beat the Bulldogs 6-5 in an SEC Tournament elimination game on Friday.

Three of Mississippi State’s four tournament games — one wins and two losses — were decided by one run and the other by two runs. Three of the four had the winning run scored in the eighth or ninth inning.

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Mississippi State (38-21) scored five runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-3 lead. Connor Hujsak and Dakota Jordan each hit a two-run single and David Mershon drew a bases-loaded walk.

The two RBI singles, as well as another single earlier in the inning by Joe Powell, accounted for three of Mississippi State’s four hits in the game.

Tennessee (48-11) rallied to tie it in the seventh, however, when two runs scored on a throwing error. Burke’s home run leading off the eighth put the top-seeded Volunteers ahead, and their bullpen slammed the door.

Andrew Behnke struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth inning, and then Kirby Connell and Nate Snead tag-teamed the ninth inning and retired the side in order. Snead got the last two outs to earn his fifth save of the season.

Burke finished 3-for-3 for the Vols, and Hunter Ensley was 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Tennessee left 12 runners on base.

Tennessee advanced to face Vanderbilt in the semifinals Saturday at 3:30 p.m. LSU will play South Carolina at noon, and the winners of the two games will advance to the championship game Sunday afternoon.

LSU beat South Carolina 11-10 on Thursday night and had Friday off. South Carolina beat Kentucky 6-5 in an elimination game Friday.

Tennessee won the SEC Tournament in 2022 and Vanderbilt in 2023.

Mississippi State, meanwhile, will wait to find out its NCAA Tournament assignment. The Bulldogs are considered a candidate to host a regional next weekend, but are not a lock. They’ll have to hope their solid week at the SEC Tournament did enough to bolster their resume.

The full 64-team NCAA Tournament field will be announced Monday at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.