Tennessee bounces back to force Game 3 of MCWS vs. Texas A&M (2024)

OMAHA, Neb. — The college baseball season has come down to one game.

Tennessee evened the best-of-three Men’s College World Series championship series with a 4-1 victory against Texas A&M on Sunday at Charles Schwab Field.

The Southeastern Conference foes will play a winner-take-all game on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

Dylan Dreiling on Sunday slammed a two-out, two-run home run over the right-field bullpen in the top of the seventh inning to end the Volunteers’ drought with runners on base against the Aggies’ pitching.

They don't make 'em any more CLUTCH than DYLAN DREILING!

LET'S GOOOO!

📺 https://t.co/dOromFvTCS (ABC)#GBO // #OTH // #MCWS // #BeatTAMU pic.twitter.com/sWK0xhyhWX

— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) June 23, 2024

His 22nd home run of the season, against little-used freshman reliever Kaiden Wilson, put Tennessee on top for the first time in the championship series after A&M’s Jace LaViolette hit his 29th home run of the season in the first inning.

Cal Stark added a two-run shot, his 11th, that cleared the left-field bullpen to provide breathing room for the Vols in the eighth inning.

STARK INDUSTRIES 🚀

BANG!

📺 https://t.co/dOromFvTCS (ABC)#GBO // #OTH // #MCWS // #BeatTAMU pic.twitter.com/KhmpL1ZBY3

— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) June 23, 2024

A crowd of 25,987 braved steamy conditions — forecasted to rise above 100 degrees on Monday in Omaha — for another marathon of longer than three hours as these programs battled to win their first national championships in baseball. A&M seeks its first championship in a major men’s team sport since it claimed a football title in 1939.

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The Aggies, seeded third in the NCAA postseason, finished in a tie for third here in 2022. Top-seeded Tennessee finished second in 1951.

On the mound for Tennessee in Game 2, starter Drew Beam lasted four innings and allowed one run on three hits. He struck out seven. Reliever Aaron Combs threw four shutout innings of relief to earn his third victory in four decisions this year. He scattered three hits and fanned five.

“The story of the game was how they pitched,” Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “The two big swings — and Combs shut down.”

Nate Snead got the final three outs for Tennessee after A&M put two runners on base in the bottom of the ninth. Pinch-hitter Ryan Targac flew out to deep right field to end the game.

Tennessee showed resilience

Texas A&M pitchers escaped several big jams before the Vols broke through. The Aggies pulled Zane Badmaev, starting his first game of the season, after he allowed a leadoff single in the second inning. The Vols loaded the bases against hard-throwing right-hander Chris Cortez, who coaxed a ground ball from star leadoff man Christian Moore to second baseman Kaeden Kent to end the threat.

We were just trying to keep leaning on Cortez,” Dreiling said. “We were just trying to get his pitch count up and get deeper into the pen.”

In the fourth, Tennessee left the bases full again when Cortez got slugger Blake Burke on a roller to Kent. And in the sixth, after Cortez put two runners aboard and ran his pitch count to a season-high 99, Stark bounced into a double play against rarely Wilson, stranding another Tennessee baserunner.

“It was an exciting win, maybe not the sexiest,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. “But there were a lot of teammates picking up teammates. I just felt we were more true to who we are.”

The Vols stranded nine through six innings and went hitless in 16 at-bats with runners on base before Dreiling’s home run.

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Looking ahead to Monday

The finals in Omaha will be decided in a Game 3 for the fifth time in the past six Men’s College World Series.

Tennessee appears set on the mound with senior lefty Zander Sechrist. He matched his career high with 6 ⅓ innings on Wednesday in the Vols’ 7-2 victory against Florida State that secured Tennessee’s spot in the finals.

Sechrist also went 6 ⅓ innings against Evansville in the decisive third game of super-regional play.

For Texas A&M, sophom*ore lefty Justin Lamkin is ready to go. He threw eight shutout innings in Omaha in two starts against Florida. And ace reliever Evan Aschenbeck is available, too, for an extended appearance after he threw 2 ⅔ innings and struck out seven of 10 batters faced Saturday in closing the Aggies’ 9-5 Game 1 win against Tennessee.

“I’ve heard a few guys already saying this is the most comfortable we’ve felt playing baseball for a while,” said LaViolette, the A&M outfielder. “It’s the same baseball game, elimination or not. Weget to play tomorrow, we don’t have to. As coach said, it’s a blessing.”

Required reading

  • Vols baseball euphoria runs into Aggies reality, but Tennessee has the edge from here
  • Tony Vitello’s Vols are in the College World Series again, proving ‘goofy’ goes a long way
  • College World Series 2024: 10 things you need to know about the field

(Photo of Dylan Dreiling: Steven Branscombe / USA Today)

Tennessee bounces back to force Game 3 of MCWS vs. Texas A&M (1)Tennessee bounces back to force Game 3 of MCWS vs. Texas A&M (2)

Mitch Sherman is a staff writer for The Athletic covering Nebraska football. He previously covered college sports for ESPN.com after working 13 years for the Omaha World-Herald. Mitch is an Omaha native and lifelong Nebraskan. Follow Mitch on Twitter @mitchsherman

Tennessee bounces back to force Game 3 of MCWS vs. Texas A&M (2024)

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