Arkansas beats Tennessee for first SEC baseball championship

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

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.

Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Dave Van Horn greets his players prior to the game against the Florida State Seminoles in the 2019 College World Series. Van Horn's Razorbacks beat Tennessee 7-2 on Sunday to win the University of Arkansas Razorbacks' first SEC baseball championship.

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.

Regional hosts were set to be announced late Sunday.

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 michael.wilson@knoxnews.com 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.