Gilbert’s Walk-Off Grand Slam Powers #2 Vols Past Wright State in NCAA Opener
Vols rally to beat Wright State 9-8 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Drew Gilbert’s walk-off grand slam lifted No. 2 Tennessee to a dramatic come-from-behind, 9-8, victory over Wright State Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Trailing 8-5 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, the third-seeded Vols offense got a kickstart by way of a leadoff single from Connor Pavolony. After Max Fergusonsingled to left center field and Jake Rucker walked, Gilbert came up with the bases loaded and crushed the second pitch of the at bat over the bullpen in right field to send the sellout crowd into a frenzy.
Entering the ninth inning, Tennessee had not scored since the third and had recorded just three hits over the previous five innings. Pavolony led the Vols with three hits on the night—including a home run—while Gilbert, Ferguson and Luc Lipcius also homered and had two hits apiece. Redmond Walsh earned the win for the Vols after coming on in relief and tossing a scoreless top half of the night’s final inning.
Chad Dallas got the start on the mound for the Vols, throwing 4.1 innings and striking out five batters. After Tennessee jumped out to a 5-2 lead through the opening three innings of the game, Wright State gradually chipped away before eventually breaking through with a three-run seventh inning. The Raiders went on to tack on one more in the eighth inning to push their lead to three at 8-5. All eight of Wright State’s runs on the evening were driven in by home runs, as they finsihed with five.
The Vols hit four homers of their own, marking the sixth time they have hit four or more in a game this season, as the two teams combined for nine total long balls on the night. Wright State took a lead right out of the gates in the first inning, as Tyler Black hit a two-run homer just over the right-field wall, his first of two in the game. Tennessee quickly responded with a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning from Lipcius before exploding for four runs in third—powered by home runs from Pavolony and Ferguson. Lipcius closed out the third inning by driving in his second run of the day with a double off the left-field wall, allowing Gilbert to cruise in from third base.
After the Tennessee’s productive start to the evening, the Vols were held in check offensively for the rest of the night until the four-run ninth inning. With the win, the Vols enter the winner’s bracket and will play Saturday at 6 p.m. against Liberty, who defeated Duke on Friday afternoon, 11-6.
WALKING IT OFF: Gilbert’s grand slam in the bottom of the ninth marked Tennessee’s seventh walk-off win of the season. It marks Gilbert’s second walk-off of the season after he previously hit a walk-off solo homer against LSU on March 28. After not hitting a walk-off homer since 2010, the Vols have hit four this season. Gilbert’s walk-off blast tonight was his first home runs since hitting that game-winner against the Tigers.
ANOTHER GRAND SLAM: Gilbert’s walk-off also marked the Vols’ sixth grand slam of the season. Gilbert and Jake Rucker have two apiece, while Evan Russell and Liam Spence also have one this season.HOT START AT NCAAs: With the win, Tennessee improved to 8-3 all-time in NCAA Tournament openers. Friday, however, was the first time that Tennessee opened NCAA play with a victory since 2005.
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