CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WATE) – Tennessee second baseman Jake Rucker hit a 2-out RBI single in the 10th inning to lead Tennessee past Liberty 6-5 on Sunday at Boshamer Stadium.
With the win, Tennessee advances to the NCAA Regional final against North Carolina.
Tennessee, who had six hits against the Flames on Friday, had six hits in two innings. Justin Ammons, Jay Charleston, and Andre Lipcius fired off three straight singles to load the bases with no outs in the first inning. Alerick Soularie would hit into a double play and score Ammons.
After Jake Rucker doubled down the right-field line in the second inning, Pete Derkay brought him around with an RBI triple to give Tennessee a 2-0 lead. Connor Pavolony chipped in another RBI with a sacrifice fly to center on the next at-bat.
Sean Hunley, who gave up two hits in six innings in a 7-1 win over the Flames in February, started on the mound for Tennessee. The sophomore went 2.2 innings, gave up six hits and one run to go with two strikeouts. For the second game in a row, Tony Vitello turned to Garrett Crochet.
The Vols lefty totaled four strikeouts in 2.1 innings in Saturday’s 10-3 win over UNC Wilmington, his first appearance since being hit in the face by a line drive on May 17. The Flames got to Crochet in the fourth when Tyler Galazin hit a 2 RBI single to center to tie the game 3-3.
Liberty went with a change on the mound in the fifth inning, bringing in senior all-American Evan Braband for Joseph Adametz. The Flames starter lasted 4.1 innings, allowing 8 hits, 3 runs and 2 strikeouts on 66 pitches.
Andre Lipcius, the first batter that Braband faced, hit a 2-run home run to left to give Tennessee a 5-3 lead. The long ball was Lipcius’ 17th this season.
For the next three innings, it looked like the home run would be the difference maker. But Liberty had other plans in the ninth. Trailing 5-4, the Flames loaded the bases with no outs. Redmond Walsh then hit Logan Mathieu to tie the game 5-5. After Pete Derkay caught a line drive at first base, Walsh turned a ground ball back to the mound into a 1-2-3 double play to end the threat.
Tennessee took the lead back in the top of the 10th when Rucker hit a 2-out RBI single to left that proved to be the game-winner and keep Tennessee’s season alive.
Tennessee will meet North Carolina for the first time in the NCAA Regional on Sunday at 6 p.m. in another elimination game. A Vols win would force a final game on Monday at 1 p.m.