Tennessee's semifinal showdown Saturday afternoon against Florida in the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament did not go as planned for Volunteers coach Tony Vitello, and he was thrilled with that.
After riding the pitching trio of Chad Dallas, Will Heflin and Blade Tidwell to an SEC East title and through the first three games of the league tournament in Hoover, Alabama, Vitello tabbed junior Camden Sewell to start against the surging Gators. The former Cleveland High School standout was more than up for the task, producing six dominant innings as the No. 4 Vols prevailed 4-0 for a spot in Sunday's championship game against top-ranked Arkansas.
ESPN2 will televise the 3 p.m. Eastern matchup.
"Camden Sewell was the ultimate leader today," Vitello said afterward on a Zoom call. "Our plan was to use him as a starter when the postseason rolled around, because he's kind of been a swing man for us. He started in the (NCAA) regionals as a freshman, and he's fully capable as you saw today.
"We thought Camden Sewell could win this game today, but Camden Sewell in a zone showed up. He was in a flow there, and it was pretty special to watch."
In just his third start and his 19th appearance overall this season, the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder threw three hitless innings out of the gate and wound up yielding just two hits. Sewell had not worked four innings in any game this year until Saturday, when he improved to 4-1 and lowered his ERA to 3.07.
Tennessee shortstop and leadoff batter Liam Spence gave Sewell all the offense he needed with a 2-for-3 performance with two runs scored.
"To be honest, I did get a little gassed," Sewell said with a smile. "I was just trying to give it everything I could to get as far and as deep into the game as possible. The biggest thing was just getting ahead in the count.
"The guys behind me played great, and they also put up some runs."
Florida had waxed Mississippi State and Alabama by the combined score of 20-3 to reach Saturday unblemished, but Arkansas is now the only team without a tournament defeat after Saturday's 3-2 topping of Ole Miss in the second semifinal. The Razorbacks (45-10) took two of three games from Tennessee in Knoxville late in the regular season, but the Vols will enter the tourney final having rebounded from Wednesday's 11-inning loss to Alabama with wins over Mississippi State, Alabama and Florida by a combined score of 27-2.
In four SEC tournament games, the Vols (45-15) have allowed only five runs, with Sewell certainly doing his part to keep the impressive run going. As a Cleveland senior in 2018, he averaged 14.8 strikeouts per seven innings and allowed one earned run all spring.
"That was not the pitching plan, and it wasn't even close," Vitello said of Sewell's lengthy outing. "He smashed that into pieces with the way he was throwing the ball."