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Tennessee Volunteers wins Sunday to force Game 3 of College World Series finals vs. Texas A&M

Tennessee's Ariel Antigua, right, reaches to tag out Texas A&M's Caden Sorrell between first and second base in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the NCAA College World Series baseball finals in Omaha, Neb., on Sunday. (AP photo)

OMAHA, Neb. — Tennessee’s prodigious home run prowess arrived too late in Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

It showed up right on time in Game 2.

Tennessee’s Dylan Dreiling hit the go-ahead homer in the seventh inning, Cal Stark went deep in the eighth and after Nate Snead turned back a scoring threat by Texas A&M in the bottom of the ninth, the Volunteers had forced a deciding third game with a 4-1 victory Sunday.

One of the teams will win its first national title in baseball and become the fifth straight champion from the Southeastern Conference when they meet tonight.

“I felt we were more true to who we were today in pregame, in the dugout, during the game,” Vols coach Tony Vitello said. “It’s easy to say that because we end up doing OK on the scoreboard. But I’d rather go into battle with that group the way they showed up today, and hope they do the same tomorrow.”

Tennessee (59-13) is trying to become the first No. 1 national seed to win the championship since Miami in 1999. The Vols were down seven runs when Dreiling and Hunter Ensley hit back-to-back homers in the seventh inning of a 9-5 loss Saturday.

They trailed just 1-0 in the seventh Sunday when Dreiling sent Kaiden Wilson’s 1-1 pitch 390 feet into the right-field seats to give the Vols a much-needed jolt after they left the bases loaded twice and managed just four hits through six innings.

The Vols had been 2 for 20 with runners in scoring position over the first two games of the finals when Dreiling connected. Tennessee was up three runs when Stark, the No. 9 batter, homered in the eighth. He had been 0 for 16 with nine strikeouts in the CWS before he launched a pitch from Wilson over the left-field bullpen.

“We always know we’re one inning away,” Stark said. “We keep stacking quality at-bats together and good things will end up happening. The kid to my right (Dreiling) put a good swing on the ball and gave us a lot of momentum going late into the game.”

Snead, who earned his sixth save, was called on after the Aggies’ first two batters singled in the bottom of the ninth. He got a groundout and flyout before Kavares Tears went to the warning track to catch pinch-hitter Ryan Targac’s fly that stayed in the park with the help of the wind blowing in.

This will be the fifth CWS finals since 2018, and second straight, to go three games.

The Vols haven’t dropped consecutive games since March 16-17 at Alabama.

Jace LaViolette’s team-leading 29th homer of the season, 50th of his career and first of the CWS put the Aggies up 1-0 in the first inning.

It also was the first RBI in five games for LaViolette, who has been playing on a sore right hamstring.

“In the moment, that felt great,” LaViolette said. “Would it have felt a lot better if we had won that? It’s baseball. There’s ebb and flows. You try not to ride the highs and lows and I feel I’ve been riding the low a little too much.”

The Aggies had only one runner reach second against Drew Beam before Aaron Combs (3-1) took over with no outs in the fifth. Combs worked out of trouble in the sixth and left with one out in the ninth.

Schlossnagle, having won Saturday, decided to make it a bullpen day in order to save Justin Lamkin for a possible Game 3. Lampkin has thrown eight shutout innings over two CWS starts.

Zane Badmaev, who hadn’t started since he was at then-Division II Tarleton State in 2020, did his part as an opener. He was lifted for Chris Cortez after he gave up a single leading off the second inning. Cortez left in the sixth after a four-pitch walk. He blamed dehydration.

Wilson (0-2) came on and coaxed Stark’s inning-ending double play, but he couldn’t hold off the nation’s top home run-hitting team in the seventh and eighth.

Dreiling’s homer was his 22nd of the season and second of the CWS. Stark went deep for the 11th time. Tennessee has 182 homers for the year, six behind the 1997 LSU team’s NCAA record of 188.

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AP college sports: https://apnews.com/hub/college-sports

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