Evan Russell homered twice and Luc Lipcius once Friday night inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium as top-ranked Tennessee blasted Georgia 9-2 to capture the three-game series and clinch at least a share of the Southeastern Conference championship.
Roughly 90 minutes later, the Volunteers had their first league title since 1995 all to themselves by virtue of Vanderbilt's 9-6 topping of Arkansas in 10 innings.
"The vibe in the locker room is that we can celebrate after the season is completely over," Russell said immediately after Tennessee improved to 45-6 overall and to 22-4 in conference play. "No matter what happens or what we accomplish, good or bad, I think we can save the celebrations for when it's all over."
The Bulldogs, who entered Friday second in the SEC East standings, dropped to 32-18 overall and to 13-13 within the league.
Tennessee's latest offensive onslaught came at the expense of Georgia 6-foot-6 junior Jonathan Cannon, who is considered one of the SEC's top pitching prospects in the looming Major League Baseball draft. Cannon's 10 hits and six runs allowed were season highs.
"They wore Johnny down," Bulldogs coach Scott Stricklin said. "Even in that first inning, when he got out of it clean, he still threw 22 pitches. They got his pitch count up, and it finally got to him."
Friday's game in Knoxville was delayed more than an hour due to lightning, and Russell's first homer to left field in the fourth inning was a two-run shot that put the Vols up 3-1. Lipcius opened the bottom of the fifth with a homer to right-center to restore a two-run advantage at 4-2, and by the time Russell went deep to left again in the seventh, the Vols were enjoying a 9-2 runaway.
Russell now has 37 career home runs, placing the fifth-year senior one shy of the school mark set by Todd Helton.
"I guess Todd Helton is pretty good," a smiling Russell said. "To have a chance to pass him and beat the record is pretty cool. It's nothing I could have ever expected my freshman year."
Blade Tidwell started for Tennessee and allowed one run in four innings, with former Cleveland High School standout Camden Sewell entering in the fifth and yielding one run in three innings. Tidwell and Sewell combined for eight strikeouts, with the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Sewell improving to 5-1 this season with a 2.59 earned run average.
"I appreciate Sewell," Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. "They call him Bones, because he's basically a bag of bones out there. That frame of his has shouldered a lot of weight, and I'm glad that he's on our team."
The series finale will be Saturday afternoon at 1.
Lady Vols bounced
Tennessee's stint at the SEC softball tournament in Gainesville, Florida, consisted of two games, 20 innings and just one run scored.
After outlasting Mississippi State 1-0 in 13 innings Thursday afternoon behind a 161-pitch performance by Ashley Rogers, the third-seeded Lady Vols were eliminated 3-0 in Friday evening's lightning-delayed semifinal by seventh-seeded Missouri. Kimberly Wert, Hatti Moore and Kara Daly hit solo home runs for the Tigers to give Jordan Weber more than enough support in the pitcher's circle.
In reaching the SEC title game for the first time since 2013, Missouri has yet to allow a run in topping Auburn, Alabama and the Lady Vols by a combined 7-0.
Tennessee, which had just three balls all game leave the infield, dropped to 39-16 this season and will learn its NCAA tournament opposition during Sunday night's selection show (7 on ESPN2).