Tennessee wins first College World Series championship

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, June 25, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. — Rocky Top is on top.

Dylan Dreiling hit a two-run home run during a three-run burst in the seventh inning, Hunter Ensley scored what turned out to be the winning run with a remarkable slide at home plate, and Tennessee beat Texas A&M 6-5 on Monday to win its first baseball national championship.

“No better team to win for the University of Tennessee than a bunch of guys who were truly the definition of a team,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. “And no better play for our program to, I think, be the winning run on that slide, a guy that’s just built with a ton of grit. And his teammates follow his leadership. And it’s a great example of how this group got things done.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Tennessee (60-13) achieved a host of milestones with its championship-clinching victory. It became the first No. 1 overall seed to win the College World Series since Miami in 1999, and the first national champion with 60 wins since Wichita State in 1989.

Tennessee is the first Southeastern Conference team to ever win 60 games in a season, and gave the league its fifth consecutive — and fifth different — national champion in the past five seasons. The SEC has won six of the last seven College World Series titles.

The Volunteers reached the College World Series in 2021 and 2023, and lost in the super regionals as the No. 1 overall seed in 2022.

“We had unfinished business, especially this being the third time we’ve been here in the last four years,” said Tennessee pitcher Zander Sechrist, who had seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings in Game 3. “‘21 we didn’t do well. ‘22 you could arguably say that was the best college baseball team ever. ‘23 we got to experience winning at least a game here, but the job wasn’t finished. And ‘24 just felt a little different. And I’m just blessed today get the job done.”

Texas A&M (53-15) was also seeking its first national championship. It won Game 1 of the championship series, but dropped the last two.

The Aggies let a lead slip away late in Game 2 and lost 4-1, then had a comeback come up short in Game 3. They scored two runs in the eighth inning and two more in the ninth to cut a five-run deficit to one, but Tennessee’s Aaron Combs struck out Ted Burton to end the game.

“Great series. Same number of hits. Same number of errors. Probably the difference in the ballgame was timely hits and some of their hits were homers and ours weren’t,” Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “But we got the tying run to the plate in the ninth, which I knew we would regardless of the score. It’s tough to swallow. Even when you make it this far. Everybody wants to win their last game.”

Tennessee hit two more home runs to finish with 184, the most in a season by a Division I team since LSU set the record with 188 in 1997. Christian Moore led off the game with a home run, and Dreiling’s two-run shot with two outs in the seventh inning put the Vols ahead 5-1.

The play of the game, though, was Ensley’s slide a few pitches later.

Ensley singled after Dreiling’s home run and was trying to score from first base when Kavares Tears belted a double off the wall in right center field. The relay throw beat Ensley to the plate, but he juked Texas A&M catcher Jackson Appel to the inside, avoided the tag and swiped his hand across home plate to make it 6-1.

What seemed like an insurance run at the time turned out to be the difference in the game after A&M rallied late.

“Dean (Curley) was pretty much telling me outside, outside, outside. And the throw actually ended up carrying the guy to the outside,” Ensley said. “Just natural instinct trying to make a play right there and get back on the inside part of the bag. And just was able to avoid the tag right there, and ended up being a pretty big run.”