Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Tennessee baseball's advantage in College World Series? It can win any type of game

Will Backus
Knoxville News Sentinel

If Tennessee baseball has proved anything this season, it's that the Vols can win any type of game. 

A lightning-delayed nail-biter in Game 1 of the Knoxville Super Regional on Saturday? The Vols scratched out enough offense to win a low-scoring affair.

Clear blue skies for Game 2 on Sunday? Tennessee still found a way to make history.

The Vols peppered the parking lots surrounding Lindsey Nelson Stadium with six home runs in a 15-6 win, advancing to the College World Series for the first time since 2005.

A revolving door of LSU pitchers looked hapless as UT's batters made mincemeat of their mistakes. 

"I don't think you want to ever predict you're putting up a touchdown or anything like that, but you saw a looseness there that made you more comfortable," Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. "You've got to put your work in and you're going to play nine innings, there's a lot that could happen, but you sure feel good about it. That was kind of the vibe the guys had today."

[ Commemorate Tennessee baseball's epic run to the College World Series with our special book ]

Those six homers set a postseason program record, set eight days ago in a Knoxville Regional game against Liberty.

Whether it be through power hitting or grinding out at-bats with a sprinkle of good fortune, Tennessee (50-16) has consistently found ways to win. The super regional was a microcosm of a season-long trend.

After Sunday's game, the Vols are fourth in the nation in home runs with 98. But that power didn't bloom until later into the year.

Tennessee didn't breach the 60 home run mark by April’s end. It's recorded 39 since May 1 in what has easily been the best stretch the team has had in that regard through 2021. 

OMAHA BOUND:Tennessee baseball obliterates LSU, seals first College World Series berth since 2005

WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM:John Fulkerson interrupts WBIR's live shot following Tennessee baseball's CWS-clinching win

ONE TO WATCH:Retiring LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri calls Tennessee baseball 'sleeping giant'

Tennessee had as many home runs on Sunday as it did hits on Saturday. The Vols' offense largely plodded through the first five innings in Game 1, falling behind 2-1 entering the sixth.

LSU decided to bring out its hottest reliever, Javen Coleman, who subsequently allowed three hits and three runs. Tennessee's best hit was a double from Jake Rucker, which bounced off of the left field wall and put two eventual runs on base. 

"Winning a close game where we needed some guts on the mound yesterday, I think it kind of carried over to — in a funny way— the hitters were like, 'Hey, we've got your back,' " Tennessee senior outfielder Evan Russell said. "Pretty awesome to see a team not have one way of beating you."

Rucker started the deluge in his first plate appearance in Game 2 with a two-run homer over the left-center wall. 

That was the first of his two home runs, and Drew Gilbert, Russell, Jordan Beck and Connor Pavolony each had one. 

That offensive versatility — finding a way to win in any circumstance — will be a boon for the Vols in Omaha, as they attempt to reach their first World Series final since 1951, when they finished runner-up. That's especially true in TD Ameritrade Park, which plays much bigger than the Vols are used to.

"You never know how we're going to win, but if we find a way, it's pretty special," Russell said. "With this group, you better be ready to watch, because we're always on the hunt to do some really cool things."

Follow Will Backus on Twitter @will_backus1