Tennessee

Victory in the Orange: Tennessee Vols Claim First-Ever College World Series Title

OMAHA, NE- On a monumental Monday night, the Tennessee Vols etched their names into history by capturing their first-ever College World Series championship against a resilient fellow SEC Texas A&M squad, prevailing 6-5 in a thrilling showdown. This victory marked the first time since 1999, when Miami achieved the feat as the inaugural No. 1 National Seed, that the top-seeded team claimed the ultimate prize. The Vols entered the men's NCAA tournament as the nation's No. 1 seed and finished it still on top, with the rallying cry of Rocky Top.

Tennessee's offense operated precisely, with nearly every batter in the lineup connecting for hits. Still, their pitching was the show's star, amassing 14 strikeouts throughout the contest.

Rocky-Top Offense Leads the Way

The top-ranked Tennessee Vols’ offense, leading the nation in scoring and home runs this season, wasted no time bolstering those statistics. Christian Moore, dubbed "The Tennessee Home Run King," set the tone with a leadoff solo shot into the left-field bullpen in the first inning, marking his 34th homer of the season.

The Aggies answered back in the top of the third, connecting for three hits and an RBI single from the bat of freshman leadoff Gavin Grahovac, who made tournament history himself when he became the first leadoff hitter in the Men’s College World Series finals to hit a home run in his first at-bat since 2003 when Stanford’s Sam Fuld did it against Rice. Still, the Vols’ pitching staff held the rope, delivering three scoreless innings through the seventh.

Maintaining a 3-1 advantage through three scoreless innings, the Vols capitalized on a pivotal moment in the bottom of the seventh. Third baseman Billy Amick's two-out single off Texas A&M’s All-American closer Evan Aschenbeck set the stage for Dylan Dreiling's game-changing home run. Aschenbeck, who had struck out seven Vols during his eight-out save on Saturday, struggled to contain Tennessee this time, conceding five hits and three runs over his three innings of relief.

Dreiling Doesn’t Miss

Once again, Dylan Dreiling proved pivotal for Tennessee, delivering a crucial two-run homer in the seventh inning that secured their definitive lead over the persistent Aggies. Adding to his impact, Dreiling drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third inning, helping Tennessee seize the lead. His consistent performance throughout the College World Series finals, where he homered in all three games, earned him the title CWS Most Outstanding Player.

Can't Spell Knoxville Without "K"

The Vols put their trust in LHP Zander Sechrist, and rightfully so. This marked his eighth time this season in which he completed 5+ innings for the Vols, and the Vols went on to win all eight of those outings. Sechrist improved to 6-1 on the year after allowing just one run and six hits while striking out seven batters across 5.1 innings of work.

The Vols utilized four relievers (Nate Snead, Dylan Loy, Kirby Connell, and Aaron Combs), together with Sechrist, combined for 14 total strikeouts on the night.

Subsequently, the Aggies put their trust in LHP Justin Lamkin, also rightfully so, and ultimately, Lamkin didn’t have his greatest stuff. Heading into Game 3 of the finals, Lamkin had been impeccable through the tournament with zero earned runs through eight innings of work, four hits, one walk, and 15 strikeouts.

The Aggies Didn’t Go Down Without a Fight

Texas A&M staged two strong comebacks in the eighth and ninth innings. In the eighth, Tennessee reliever Kirby Connell intervened after scoring two runs and placing two runners on base with just one out. He struck out Kaeden Kent and Ryan Targac, effectively diffusing the threat. The Aggies added two more runs in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate. However, the Vols held firm, with Aaron Combs striking out the last two batters of the game to secure the save.

“The game came down to timely hitting,” remarked Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle. “They connected for home runs at critical junctures, and we didn’t.”

Coach Jim Schlossnagle, who also led TCU to five appearances in the MCWS, boasts seven MCWS appearances in total, tied for the third-most among active coaches.

Tennessee Achieves Breakthrough Victory

Tennessee took a chance on 38-year-old Tony Vitello, appointing him as head coach in 2017. Coincidentally, Vitello had been hired by the Aggies’ head coach in 2011 and then-TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle. The Horned Frogs made the NCAA baseball tournament in 2011 and 2012 while Vitello was on staff.

Upon his hiring at Tennessee, the program hadn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2005. By Year 4 under Vitello's leadership, the Vols surged to the College World Series after an outstanding 2021 season, earning him Coach of the Year honors. However, their initial CWS appearance, where they went 0-2, left them hungry for improvement. They persevered, culminating in a breakthrough 2024 season with a star-studded roster that achieved an impressive 60-win record.

"It doesn’t surprise me what Tony has done," Schlossnagle said. "And not just with this team, but the entire program as a whole.”

All-Tournament Team

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Jonna M. Perlinger

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