Photo via Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee baseball outlasted Clemson in an epic 14-inning, 6-5 win on Saturday night.
The game had so many storylines and twists and turns for both sides, ranging from a pitcher being one pitch away from a complete game to a 10th inning stretch from the final man to make Tennessee’s active roster.
It’s difficult to narrow down the best moments from Tennessee’s win, but with the amount of game-saving plays the Vols made late Saturday, some stick out more than others.
Here’s the top five critical moments, along with some honorable mentions, from Tennessee’s epic win over the Tigers in their own stadium.
5. Cal Stark Catches Cam Cannarella Stealing Third in B7
The first of two defensive plays in the top five is Cal Stark catching the speedy Cam Cannarella stealing third base in the bottom of the seventh. Cannarella had led off the inning with a double and was looking to steal third with one out.
Cannarella was 24-28 in stealing bases on the season. And considering Tennessee’s poor ability to frequently catch runners stealing, catching Cannarella was all the more impressive.
Stark delivered a laser to Denton at third who made a great tag, preventing the Tigers from having a runner on third with one out.
The Tigers could’ve been a sac fly or groundout away from extending their lead to three runs, and who knows if the game would’ve ended up going into extras had Stark and Denton not made that play.
4. Blake Burke Hits a Two-Out, 0-2 Single in T9, Caden Grice Exits
Blake Burke entered the game on a 1-18 hitting slump at the plate.
The power-hitting lefty turned things around at the right time, going 3-4 on the night with one crucial two-out hit.
With Christian Moore on first, Clemson star pitcher Caden Grice on the mound, and two outs on the scoreboard, Burke came through with a single up the middle on an 0-2 count.
Had Burke been retired, the game would have been over. Additionally, Burke’s single chased Grice out of the game. Clemson went on to use nine arms out of the bullpen, none of which came close to having the same success Grice did in 8.2 innings.
Burke’s hit made the below statistic and number two on this list possible.
Caden Grice was one pitch away from a complete game, and Clemson went on to throw 10 pitchers.
The #Vols used three in 14 innings.
Baseball is a wild, wild game.
— Jack Foster (@jackfostermedia) June 4, 2023
3. Hunter Ensley Go-Ahead RBI Double
The fact that the the game-winning hit is number three on this list tells you how wild this game was.
Hunter Ensley was responsible for Tennessee’s go-ahead RBI double in the 14th, putting the first run on the scoreboard in extra innings.
Prior to Ensley’s big at-bat, he was 0-6 on the night with four strikeouts and 1-11 on the weekend. But sometimes all you need in baseball is one swing, and Ensley had that swing for the Vols.
The junior center fielder placed an 0-1 pitch perfectly in the right-center gap to score the speedy Maui Ahuna all the way from first.
After four frames of extra-inning baseball chess in which each team had been put in check multiple times, Ensley’s double proved to be checkmate as Seth Halvorsen tossed up another 0 in B14 to finish off the Tigers.
Mr. Ensley #GBO // #OTH // #VolsWin pic.twitter.com/ZzZpCBAlxC
— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) June 4, 2023
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2. Zane Denton Hits Go-Ahead Three-Run Homer in T9
The home run that won’t soon be forgotten.
Zane Denton fell down 0-2 against reliever Ryan Ammons, and Tennessee was down to its final strike again.
Denton worked his way back up to 2-2 before smashing a three-run blast over the slanted awning over the left-field seating in Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Denton’s 410-foot blast put Tennessee ahead 5-4 in the ninth and got every single one of his teammates out of the dugout to celebrate on the field.
While Cam Cannarella tied the game with an RBI double in B9 to send the contest into extra innings, Denton’s crowd-silencing home run was the most significant swing, and likely of the season, in the game.
THIS HAS TO BE A DREAM
VOLS PUT TWO ON WITH TWO OUTS AND ZANE BLASTS A THREE-RUN SHOT TO GIVE TENNESSEE THE LEAD DOWN TO ITS FINAL STRIKE pic.twitter.com/ekdI48lTSQ
— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) June 4, 2023
1. Vols Infield Executes Double Play in B10
Zane Denton’s home run will be remembered much longer than any moment on this list, certainly number one.
But when deciding the most critical moment for Tennessee in their win, the infield executing a double play in the bottom of the 10th inning to get out of a bases loaded jam is number one.
It is the only play on the night to where if it didn’t happen, the Vols would have lost.
Yes, Blake Burke and Zane Denton had to get on base to keep the game alive. But Denton didn’t have to hit a three-run bomb to keep the game alive. Blake Burke could have worked his way back into the count against a spent Caden Grice and possibly gotten walked.
Ethan Payne had to make the catch at first base in the bottom of the 10th. Christian Moore and Maui Ahuna had to be the quickest possible with their throws to second and first base, respectively. If Tennessee’s infield took half a second longer in executing this double play, Clemson would’ve walked it off on a fielder’s choice.
The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs, and things looked bleak for the Vols. But Chase Burns bounced back with a strikeout for out number one. Then, the sophomore got Benjamin Blackwell to hit a grounder to Christian Moore, who fired a throw to Ahuna at second who in turn fired a throw to Payne at first.
Blackwell was originally ruled safe, but he was out after further review as Tennessee stayed alive.
Payne, who was the final player to make Tennessee’s active roster for the regional, pinch ran for Burke in the ninth and played first base for the entirety of extra innings. Payne’s stretch at first was a difficult play to make, but the senior made it, and Tennessee got out of the jam.
After the 10th inning, the game was Tennessee’s to lose, especially once Seth Halvorsen came in and shut down Clemson’s bats. It was only a matter of time before Tennessee’s offense made something happen against one of the Tigers’ bullpen arms.
Christian Moore two-out single in T9
Moore started the ninth-inning rally with a two-out single to right field against Grice. Burke’s single came directly after Moore’s.
Christian Scott hoses Riley Bertram in B8
Scott gunned down Riley Bertram who tried to leg out a double into right field. The out ended the inning and prevented Clemson from getting a runner in scoring position.
Blake Burke throws Billy Amick out at home in B2
Another defensive highlight is when Blake Burke had a high-awareness play by throwing Benjamin Blackwell out at home to end the second inning, keeping the Tigers scoreless for the time being.
Tennessee baseball is back in action on Sunday night against the winner of Clemson vs. Charlotte for the Regional Final.