Moore's late heroics propel Vols over Gators, bail Vitello out

Dreams keep becoming realities for the nation's top-ranked college baseball team.

Producing Tennessee's most dramatic moments so far in this memorable season, Christian Moore hit a two-run single with two out in the ninth inning and launched a two-run home run in the 11th to rally the Volunteers to a 6-4 victory over Florida in Gainesville on Sunday afternoon to complete their fifth Southeastern Conference series sweep in six opportunities. The Vols improved to 37-3 overall and became the first SEC squad ever to start 17-1 in league play, topping Tennessee's 1951 team that finished 16-1 in conference contests.

"It felt amazing," Moore said when asked about the deciding homer to left-center field. "Being in a close game in the 11th - it's something you dream about as a kid, to hit the go-ahead home run. I put a good swing on a fastball. It went over, and I got to celebrate with my teammates."

Moore also got to celebrate with coach Tony Vitello, who on Sunday returned from his NCAA four-game suspension for bumping an umpire during last weekend's series against visiting Alabama. Tennessee had been impressive under hitting coach Josh Elander, waxing Alabama, Bellarmine and Florida twice by the combined score of 35-9.

The Vols prevailed Sunday despite being held hitless through six innings.

"Just a tremendous character win by our guys," Vitello said. "They kind of bailed me out, because I would have looked like a clown ruining things the way the team was playing."

Tennessee's first sweep in Gainesville since 2001 seemed highly unlikely when the Vols faced a 4-1 deficit entering the ninth inning. Jorel Ortega homered to left-center to make it a 4-2 contest, but the Vols were down to their final out when Moore singled through the left side off of Blake Purnell to bring in Trey Lipscomb and Seth Stephenson.

"I had faced him earlier in the game, and he jammed me on an inside fastball," Moore, who served as the designated hitter, said of his tying hit. "I wanted to get my foot down early and cheat the inside heater. He threw it again, and I put a good swing on it."

Redmond Walsh worked scoreless ninth, 10th and 11th innings for the Vols, who have amazingly won nine consecutive SEC road series in a streak that dates to 2019. Florida, meanwhile, dropped to 23-17 overall and 6-12 in league play.

The Vols clinched the series with Saturday night's 3-0 blanking, when Blade Tidwell and Camden Sewell combined on a two-hitter. Sewell, the former Cleveland High School standout, entered with two out in the fifth inning and did not allow a hit the rest of the way.

"Cam was just doing his thing," Elander said Saturday after improving to 5-0 in his career as Tennessee's acting coach. "He was slinging that thing in there. He had really good movement on the heater, and his breaker was good."

Sewell improved to 4-1 this season while lowering his earned run average to 2.40.

"Throwing strikes was the main thing," Sewell said. "The defense played really good behind me. I had a few walks and hit by pitches, but the defense played really, really well behind me, and I can't thank them enough for that."

In Tennessee's opening 8-2 win Friday night, Lipscomb's three-run homer highlighted a seven-run second inning that gave starting pitcher Chase Burns more than enough cushion. Burns had failed to work into the fourth inning of his previous two starts against Missouri and Alabama but pitched into the seventh against the Gators.

"His velocity was great," Elander said. "He was up to 97 and 98 (miles per hour) even in the seventh. His breaker is always a difference maker, and he just has elite competitiveness. It was a really good start for him."

Tennessee returns home to face Xavier on Tuesday and will host Auburn next weekend. The 19th-ranked Tigers finished off a sweep of South Carolina on Sunday to improve to 29-12 overall and 11-7 in the SEC.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.