Vols suffer Hoover heartbreak, again

Just when it looks like Tennessee is finally going to shut up some naysayers and get off the schneid, the worst happens.

HOOVER, Ala. — Show of hands: who's read this story already?

Tennessee put its season on the line in the Southeastern Conference tournament's opening day...again.

The Volunteers played plenty well enough to extend their season and reach the double-elimination portion of the tourney...again.

In spite of facing one of the country's best programs and teams, the Big Orange had a chance to breathe excitement into dormant portions of the Tennessee baseball fanbase...again.

No matter the factors, no matter the momentum, Tennessee suffered a one-run, season-ending loss that brought tears to the eyes of the boys in orange...again.

No. 7-ranked LSU rallied in the bottom of the ninth with a Greg Deichmann home run and a Kramer Robertson walk-off single to defeat the Vols 5-4 on Monday night.

"We have a slogan at the University of Tennessee: 'I will give my all," Tennessee coach Dave Serrano said. "They gave their all."

The 12-seeded Vols end the 2016 campaign with a 29-28 overall record. No. 5-seed LSU improved to 40-17 and advances to play No. 4-seed Florida.

Freshman Will Neely took the mound for Tennessee and gave up five hits, one walk and one run with three strikeouts in six-plus innings. Aaron Soto allowed two hits and a walk in 2/3 scoreless. However, Andy Cox and Hunter Martin got touched for four earned runs on three walks and four hits combined.

"We were short in some areas," Serrano said. "That was evident to me as the season went on, but this team never quit. I think it exemplified it today. We went toe-to-toe with one of the top teams in the country — a team that's probably going to be a regional host and maybe one of the eight top seeds — but the bottom line is we came up short. It's disappointing for everybody involved in the University of Tennessee family.

"We've had a lot of tough losses this year, a lot of tough losses. Because of what this team did to get here and what this team wanted to do, that one really hurts me tremendously as their leader."

First baseman Jordan Rodgers singled home Chris Hall with the Vols' first run with two down in the top of the fourth to break a scoreless tie.

Catcher Tyler Schultz laid down a bunt single up the third-base line in the fifth and eventually touched home plate on a Max Bartlett base hit to double the advantage.

Senior right fielder Chris Hall got the Vols dugout in a frenzy with a double into the left-field center field gap in the sixth. Two batters later, Hall scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of left fielder Vincent Jackson. Rodgers walked and the fourth ball went to the backstop to allow Nick Senzel to score Tennessee's fourth and final run.

The wheels almost came completely off for the Vols with the Tigers scoring six in the bottom of the seventh but an outfield assist from Jackson ended the rally at three scores. The Big Orange threw out three Tigers at the plate total.

The Orange & White banged out seven hits and owned the basepaths with six stolen bases.

It was the final game for eight seniors, not including Senzel, who is expected to leave for professional baseball with a lucrative signing bonus likely being laid at his feet following the Major League Baseball  Draft in June.

See what Neely said about his outing and more by clicking play on the video below.


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