Vols win Clemson Regional with unexpected shredding of 49ers

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessees Christian Moore watches the flight of his second-inning home run during Sunday night's 9-2 dumping of Charlotte to win the Clemson Regional. Moore homered twice Sunday and had four homers in three games during the NCAA regional.

Tennessee won the Clemson Regional with only having to face Clemson once.

The second-seeded Volunteers cruised to a third consecutive NCAA regional title Sunday night with a 9-2 pounding of third-seeded Charlotte at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The 49ers were surprise finalists after eliminating top-seeded Clemson 3-2 Sunday afternoon in a game that began roughly 13 hours after the Tigers fell 6-5 to the Volunteers in a 14-inning thriller.

“I think, for our guys, their confidence has been growing as the year has gone on,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said in a news conference. “I know they believed in themselves even though we were coming to a national seed’s site and a place that is always rowdy to play in no matter who the opponent is.

“I’m grateful to be around good players who make you look smart, but more than anything, I am kind of enjoying the process.”

Christian Moore homered in the second and sixth innings Sunday to pace the Vols, who improved to 41-19 and hope to be approved by the NCAA to host a super regional this week. The Clemson Regional champion is facing the Auburn Regional champion in the super regional, but top-seeded Auburn went two-and-out at Plainsman Park this weekend.

Two days after junior pitcher Andrew Lindsey struck out 10 batters in seven innings during Tennessee’s opening 8-1 rout of Charlotte, sophomore Drew Beam got the start and tallied 10 strikeouts in six innings. Beam was replaced by former Cleveland High School standout Camden Sewell, who racked up four strikeouts in two scoreless innings.

Moore led off the second inning with a homer to left-center field for a 1-0 lead, and the Vols opened the fourth with Jared Dickey reaching on a fielding error and Griffin Merritt doubling down the left-field line. Consecutive sacrifice flies to center by Moore and Blake Burke extended Tennessee’s lead to 3-0, and then Zane Denton homered to center.

The 49ers pulled within 4-2 on Austin Knight’s homer to left in the fifth and Cam Fisher’s RBI double down the right-field line in the sixth, but the Vols countered that in the sixth on Merritt’s single to left and Moore’s two-run homer to center. Moore finished the regional with four homers in the three games and went 7-for-11 at the plate.

“It was like he was playing a video game and had the cheat code turned on,” Charlotte coach Robert Woodard said of Moore. “He was on another level.”

Clemson entered the regional as the NCAA tournament’s No. 4 overall seed and on a 17-game winning streak.

“The energy and crowd last night will be something that’s forever burned into all of our memories,” Clemson coach Erik Bakich said Sunday in a news conference. “It feels like driving 100 miles an hour and all of a sudden we just slammed on the brakes. I don’t know if it was because we were emotionally drained today, but only the losing team says ‘Would have, could have, should have.’

“We’re not going to make excuses for it, but as coaches, we’re going to beat ourselves up for every little decision.”

Contact David Paschall at [email protected].