Vol home runs set stage for winner-take-all

Marvin Westwestwords

Now we know for sure: The College World Series really isn’t over until the last out.

If all goes well, if the weather is no worse than hot, college baseball will end tonight, winner take all. The greatest show on dirt and grass resumes at 7 on ESPN.

The prize will be a first national baseball championship for Tennessee or Texas A&M.

The Vols set the scene with a 4-1 Sunday victory. They missed eight early scoring opportunities but finally broke up the battle by being who they are. Dylan Dreiling and Cal Stark hit two-run home runs — 181 and 182 for the season.

Dylan Dreling

Jim Schlossnagle, Texas A&M coach, said it sure would have been nice if the Aggies could have won two in a row and took the title.

“I thought it was a great ball game, close game, just exactly what you’d expect with these two teams.

“We don’t have to play Game 3; we get to play the last college baseball game of the season. And that’s awesome.”

For two-thirds of the Sunday game, Tennessee couldn’t get a clutch hit with runners in scoring position. The second Aggie batter, Jace LaViolette, hit a home run and that squeaky 1-0 lead held up. A&M pitcher Chris Cortez gave up two hits and five walks in four innings. Drew Beam gave up the homer but nothing else in four. He had an impressive hot streak – five consecutive strikeouts.

Higher drama finally arrived in the seventh inning. Dreiling drove a fastball out to right, into the Vol bullpen. Christian Moore was aboard. Tennessee was suddenly on top, 2-1. Omaha got loud, really loud. Thousands in orange did it.

Maybe you remember Dreiling from last week. He hit the ball to the wall in the ninth inning for the 12-11 walk-off win over Florida State. Teammates say he is great in the clutch. Stark thinks Dylan’s mind is the winning edge.

“His heart just stays calm; his mind stays calm. He’s built for those moments. He’s done it all year,”

In the eighth, Stark got all excited when he slammed a home run to left with Dean Curley on base. The long ball was Cal’s first hit in Nebraska. He had been 0-for-16 with nine strikeouts.

Aaron Combs was big news. He retired 12 Aggies and permitted no damage.

“The story of the game was how well Tennessee pitched,” said Schlossnagle. “Combs, to me, is the story. He shut us down. He did a great job. Give him a lot of credit.”

The bottom of the ninth was a bit more exciting than was absolutely necessary. Coach Tony Vitello brought in old pro Kirby Connell for a left-left matchup. He gave up a single. Vitello turned to Nate Snead. He gave up a single. The Aggies suddenly had the potential tying run at bat.

Ariel Antigua made a nifty play for an infield out. Snead retired hot-hitting Kaeden Kent on a pop fly. Ryan Targac, the last out, hit the ball to the warning track.

The teams have one win each but both probably think they have a Monday night advantage. Tennessee is almost sure it does. Zander Sechrist will be the starting pitcher. He has been outstanding in three consecutive opportunities.

Vitello said what he is happy about is “we’ve got another ball game and Zander gets to pitch again. I’m more excited by the fact he gets another opportunity to run out there and do whatever the stuff is that he does.”

Bits ‘n pieces: Beam picked off an Aggie runner at first. Stark nailed a runner with a throw behind him. It was his seventh pickoff of the season.

Kaiden Wilson was the losing pitcher. He allowed Tennessee’s home runs. The Vols got only seven hits. The Aggies got but five.

Vitello was asked how he would spend the hours between Game 2 and Game 3. Considering the circumstances, could he get any sleep?

The coach said he didn’t sleep much on Saturday night.

“I left one of my damn AirPods … I pulled a Zander and left one of them. I could hear the party out on the street.”

Vitello has moved up in the world. He now has AirPods for both ears.

How about the pressure?

“You know, 1-1 has kind of been our theme this year. There have been a lot of game threes.”

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *