Evansville baseball battles but drops NCAA super regional opener to No. 1 Tennessee

The University of Evansville Purple Aces showed what they were made of against the No. 1 team in the country, battling until the final pitch.

Yet, the Aces fell to top-ranked Tennessee 11-6 in the Knoxville Super Regional opener Friday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. They’ll play again at 10 a.m. CDT Saturday on ESPN2 in this best-of-three series as UE (38-25) faces elimination while the Volunteers (54-11) can clinch a trip to the College World Series with a win.

UE’s offense delivered key base hits to stay in contention but also struck out 16 times. Still, the tying run was on deck in the ninth as the Aces loaded the bases but couldn’t continue to rally. North graduate Ty Rumsey also exited with a shoulder injury as he attempted to make another impressive catch, and the Aces committed a costly error that proved beneficial for one of the country’s top offenses.

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The Volunteers struck out the side to open the game and then struck first on a solo home run in the first. UE countered with Cal McGinnis’ two-run home run in the second, but the Vols took UE starter Kenton Deverman deep two more times in the third. Deverman, the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, allowed six hits, three walks and seven earned runs while striking out two in 4 2/3 innings.

UE still was never out of it as Chase Hug, McGinnis and Heritage Hills product Simon Scherry swung hot bats. Hug led off the second inning with a standup double and later tied the game in the fifth with an RBI single. McGinnis’ homer extended the Aces’ single-season home run record to 93.

Plus, Kip Fougerousse smacked a two-out, two-run double in the fifth, Scherry has recorded at least one hit in every NCAA tournament game and Mark Shallenberger, who was hit by a pitch for the 27th time, shaved the deficit in the ninth with an RBI single.

North Posey graduate Shane Harris relieved Deverman on the mound, recording three strikeouts but also allowed up a three-run blast in the seventh and the Aces couldn’t come back from there. Tennessee scored 11 runs on just nine hits, four of which were homers to give the Vols 163 on the season — second all-time in NCAA history.

The Missouri Valley Conference tournament champions still aim to become the fourth No. 4 seed to advance to the Men’s College World Series, following Oral Roberts last season. UE is the ninth team to play in a super regional as a fourth seed.

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