Alabama Baseball Upsets No. 4 Tennessee in Extras at SEC Tournament, 3-2

A controversial call in the bottom of the ninth helped propel the Crimson Tide to the winners bracket of the 2021 SEC tournament
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HOOVER, Ala. — Tennessee won, then it didn't. 

A runner-interference call in the ninth inning that negated a walk-off victory for the Volunteers gave Alabama the extra life it needed to advance past the No. 2 seed in 11 innings, 3-2, in the second round of the 2021 SEC tournament on Wednesday afternoon at the Hoover Met.

"I really think they got all the calls right," Crimson Tide coach Brad Bohannon said postgame. "I really do. I just think — I'm going to give the league a compliment. Adding video review has been amazing. It just takes all the emotion out of it. As a coach or as a player, all you can do is ask them to take a look. I thought they got all the calls right. I really do.

"You know, you don't notice a good umpire. You only notice the ones when they make mistakes, and I'm just so thankful that my profession is not like that. I would hate for coaching to be the exact same way."

The Crimson Tide's All-SEC First Team catcher Sam Praytor smoked a ground-rule double over the right-center field wall to lead off the eleventh. Two batters later, Owen Diodati cashed in the game-winning run with an RBI single up the middle of the infield. 

It was Diodati's second hit of the game after he roped a double into right field in the second.

Outfielder Jackson Tate recorded the Crimson Tide's two other RBIs thanks to a groundout that scored third baseman Zane Denton in the second and a bases loaded walk in the sixth to score first baseman William Hamiter.

Alabama went with junior right-hander on the mound in Jacob McNairy (1-0, 5.04 ERA) and he delivered his longest outing of the year with 4.2 innings, three strikeouts and only three hits and one walk. 

After allowing two hits in the first inning, putting runners on the corners, McNairy went on to retire 10 straight batters before being pulled in the fifth for senior reliever Will Freeman. 

"Well, Jacob got us off to a great start," Bohannon said. "He's coming off a little injury, and he threw two innings on Saturday against Mississippi State and looked great. Really we're just hoping to get two innings out of him today, and he had two quicker innings, and I said, hey, man, how do you feel? Do you think you could get one more? He did that, and then after the third, go tell him he's done, and he's like the most respectful, best kid in the world. Coach, why are you taking me out, man? I'm hitting my spots. I feel good. I can rest all summer. 

"I said, well, all right, but you'll be on a short leash. So went back out and kept going and pitched great."

Alabama teetered on the brink of disaster in the seventh when Tennessee first baseman Luc Lipcius and outfielder Jordan Beck reached on base with no outs due to two miscues from the Crimson Tide defense. 

Both would later come on to score to tie it at two on back-to-back RBI singles by catcher Connor Pavolony and shortstop Liam Spence. 

"We could have easily folded or cracked after those defensive miscues in the 7th inning," Bohannon said. "Kids just keep coming, that's what they do. This group is as resilient and as good at dealing with diversity as I've ever had."

Freeman only went 1.2 innings before he ran into trouble and then on came junior closer Chase Lee, who tossed a season-high 4.2 shutout innings on six hits. He also struck out three batters and threw 85 total pitches, another season-high. 

"Chase Lee wants the ball in the worst way," Alabama pitching coach Jason Jackson told Roger Hoover of Crimson Tide Sports Radio Network. "He was phenomenal for us today, kept getting better as the game went on. He's got dirty stuff, he was the big piece for us today."

Tennessee starter Will Heflin (2-2, 4.13 ERA) exited in the sixth after 5.1 innings after giving up two earned runs on four hits and two strikeouts and two walks. Pavolony, Lipcius and third baseman Jake Rucker all recorded multi-hit games for the Volunteers.

The Crimson Tide now moves into the winners bracket of the event and will face No. 13 Florida on Thursday at 4:30 p.m (CT) with junior right-hander Dylan Smith (1-7, 4.04 ERA) on the mound as Alabama continues to build its NCAA tournament resume. 

"These two wins are huge," Diodati said. "We don't plan on stopping here after these two wins. We're a really confident group, and I think we're a really good team, and we can do something really special here in the tournament and hopefully afterwards."

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