Tennessee earns first national title in baseball with 6-5 win over Texas A&M

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Christian Moore hit a leadoff homer, Dylan Dreiling went deep for the third time in three games and Tennessee won its first national championship in baseball with a 6-5 victory over Texas A&M on Monday night in Game 3 of the College World Series finals.

The Volunteers bounced back from a Game 1 loss to win two straight and become the first No. 1 national seed in the NCAA Tournament to win the title since Miami in 1999.

Tennessee (60-13) held an Aggies team averaging 8.5 runs per game for the season to six runs over the last 20 innings of the finals, with Zander Sechrist and Nate Snead doing the heavy lifting on Monday before Texas A&M came back to score four runs and get the tying run at the plate in the ninth.

Aaron Combs struck out Hayden Schott and Ted Burton to end the game and set off a Tennessee celebration behind the pitcher's mound.

“Kids are tough these days. They will do what you ask them to do,” Vols coach Tony Vitello said. “I know our fans got us through that tough inning. That was a group effort on the mound. If you’re in the SEC, you're going to be a superstar player, but you need to be a good teammate, and that’s what these guys were.”

Minutes after the final pitch, the 45-year-old Vitello shared an embrace with his father, Greg, a longtime successful high school baseball and soccer coach in St. Louis.

“I felt like I was the dad and he was the kid because he wouldn't stop crying,” Vitello said. “I had to rub some dirt on him."

Vitello jumped into the stands to share a group hug with fans, players did a lap around the warning track high-fiving fans, and Kavares Tears squatted in right field taking in the moment with a towel over his eyes.

The Vols are the eighth Southeastern Conference school to win a national title in baseball. Those eight have combined for 16 titles. The SEC has won five in a row, all by different schools, and 10 of the last 15.

Texas A&M threatened to cut into a 3-1 deficit in the sixth and seventh innings, but Snead got the Vols out of trouble both times.

Dreiling, the CWS Most Outstanding Player, connected for his 23rd homer of the season and Hunter Ensley evaded Jackson Appel's tag at the plate as he scored on Tears' double to make it 6-1 going to the eighth. Since the CWS best-of-three finals began in 2003, Dreiling is the only player to homer in three games.

The Vols' two homers Monday moved them into a tie with the 1998 LSU team for most in an NCAA Tournament (37) and gave them 184 for the season, four behind the 1997 LSU team's NCAA record of 188.

Texas A&M created some anxiety for the Vols in the eighth, scoring twice and threatening to get more with two runners on base with one out. Kirby Connell struck out Kaeden Kent on three pitches and Ryan Targac on four. Connell pumped his left fist twice, gave a primal scream and skipped over the third-base line on his way back to the dugout.

The Aggies scored twice, the second run coming home on a wild pitch, to make it a one-run game in the ninth before Combs finished it off.

“Tough one to swallow,” Aggies coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “You make it this far, you want to win your last game.”

Among the fans on hand in Tennessee orange were football great Peyton Manning, football coach Josh Heupel, men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes and country music artist Morgan Wallen. Temperature at first pitch was a humid 98 degrees, with most of the Vols’ fans in the direct sun along the third-base side until the middle innings and in the outfield bleachers until sundown.

Moore took their mind off the heat, at least for a moment, when he drove Justin Lamkin’s fourth pitch, an elevated fastball, off the back wall of the left-field bullpen for his team-leading 34th homer of the season.


AP college sports:

Eric Olson, The Associated Press