Arkansas beats Tennessee for first SEC baseball championship
Tennessee baseball's dreams of winning the program's first SEC Tournament title since 1995 were crushed by No. 1 and top-seeded Arkansas on Sunday.
The second-seeded Vols fell 7-2 to the Razorbacks in Hoover, Alabama, in the championship game.
UT (45-16) finished second to Arkansas (46-10) in the regular-season title chase as well.
The No. 4 Vols will learn their NCAA Tournament Regional opponents Monday (noon ET, ESPN2) during the selection show.
Tennessee's offense wilts vs. Razorbacks
The Vols scored 27 runs in their three SEC Tournament wins. UT had two runs each in its two losses to Alabama in Wednesday's opener and Sunday's defeat.
Tennessee couldn't generate consistent offensive opportunities against the Razorbacks. The Vols scored first on back-to-back two-out hits from Jake Rucker and Drew Gilbert in the first inning. But they did not score again until Pete Derkay's solo home run in the seventh.
UT had a key scoring threat in the second, but Max Ferguson lined out to center with the bases loaded.
One bad inning
Will Heflin made his second start of the SEC Tournament after starting against Alabama on Wednesday. The senior was solid for the first four innings, but he struggled in the fifth.
Four straight Razorbacks reached base as the Vols fell behind 3-1.
Tennessee's bullpen was a mixed bag. Elijah Pleasants struggled and did not record an out. Sean Hunley gave up a two-run homer. Jason Rackers, however, pitched well for the final 1⅓. The junior-college addition missed last season after having Tommy John surgery and has largely been a midweek pitcher this season.
The Vols are ready to host a Regional
Tennessee probably already was positioned as an NCAA Tournament Regional host regardless of what it did in Hoover. But with three wins, UT is in line to host a Regional and claim a national seed as one of the top eight teams in the NCAA Tournament.
UT also could ultimately host a Super Regional. Super Regional hosts will be selected from the 16 Regional hosts.
Tennessee has not hosted a Regional at Lindsey Nelson Stadium since 2005.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.