There was no shortage of stats that could’ve comforted Tennessee fans against Evansville heading into Saturday’s Super Regional matchup.

Regional 4-seeds had only reached the College World Series 3 times. Even more significant was that before Saturday, Regional 4-seeds were 0-30 against the No. 1 national seeds in the NCAA Tournament. That included Friday when the Vols fended off the Purple Aces to set up Saturday’s potential Omaha-clinching Super Regional game.

Tennessee was 39-3 at home having not lost a single game at Lindsey Nelson Stadium since the calendar flipped to May, and having only lost once in Knoxville since the start of April.

But even more comforting should’ve been what happened when the game started. Tennessee took advantage of some home cooking — and the bizarre rule that a Super Regional host can be the road team — by jumping all over Evansville with 3 solo home runs in the top of the first. Blake Burke, Dylan Dreiling and Hunter Ensley all went deep in the start of what appeared to be a statement Saturday.

The stat that was shown on the ESPN2 broadcast should’ve been even the most comforting number for Tennessee. The Vols were 29-0 when they slugged 3 home runs in a game. That was taken care of before some fans could even get comfortable.

And yet, nothing about the rest of the day was comfortable. At least not for the team in orange.

Evansville stormed back and one-upped those 3 solo home runs with 3 cooked numbers in the middle innings to fuel a 10-8 victory to even the Super Regional series.

Consider that an all-too-familiar reminder that postseason baseball cares little about what history tells us should happen. All that history tells us is that nothing is guaranteed.

Tennessee heard about the daunting No. 1 overall seed stat ad nauseam entering the NCAA Tournament. As in, Miami (FL) was the last No. 1 overall seed to win it all, which came back in 1999. Tennessee fans remember all too well what happened the last time Knoxville played host to a Super Regional in 2022. Notre Dame came in and shocked the No. 1 overall-seed Vols by winning the deciding game on Sunday.

This team, however, was praised for its maturity and how it would handle that target differently. The veteran leadership was what Tony Vitello said was the difference. Sunday night’s all-or-nothing matchup (6 p.m. ET) will provide some insight into just how poised this group is.

And to be clear, it’s not as if the Vols collapsed and Evansville was gifted free outs. Outside of a drop on the move by Dreiling that didn’t lead to an unearned run, Tennessee played clean defense. That historically potent lineup did its damage, albeit mostly in the bookended frames, which helped the Vols chase Evansville starter Donovan Schultz after just 4 outs.

The problem was the Vols pitching. Tennessee couldn’t find anyone who could stop the bleeding. Of the 5 pitchers who saw the mound, 4 of them surrendered at least 1 earned run. Go figure that Evansville did its damage without a single hit from its best hitter, Mark Shallenberger.

Instead, Tennessee struggled with a guy like Brendan Hord, who was 0-for-18 in the NCAA Tournament entering the day. By the end of the day, he watched a ball like this somehow sneak fair and leave the yard:

That was probably a sign that it wasn’t going to be Tennessee’s day.

Granted, the Vols didn’t go down easy. A 9th-inning rally ensued after a 5-run Evansville lead got cut to 10-8 with the bases loaded for Christian Moore. But an anti-climatic flyout ended the Vols’ bid to clinch a bid to Omaha on Saturday.

Evansville coach Wes Carroll called it “hands down, the greatest win in our school’s history” (via Ben McKee). It’s hard to argue with that. Evansville not only avoided elimination, but it notched its first-ever win in a Super Regional series. It would’ve been monumental had it come against IUPUI, much less against the best team in college baseball.

For Tennessee, that title is now irrelevant. So too is the fact that the Vols haven’t lost consecutive home games all year. This tournament doesn’t care about those sorts of things. There won’t be any comfort in Knoxville after what Evansville did on Saturday.

There also shouldn’t be a “here we go again” mindset that 2022’s heartbreak will repeat itself. It’s a largely different Tennessee team, but it’s worth noting that Zander Sechrist will get the start, and the lefty was a reliever on that 2022 squad, though he didn’t pitch in the postseason. More recently, he surrendered just 2 earned runs combined in his last 3 starts, all of which saw him get into the 5th inning.

Vitello insisted that the bullpen isn’t “gassed out,” but as we saw on Saturday, even a full-strength bullpen can struggle to get outs.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of Sunday night’s all-or-nothing showdown. With a win, Tennessee will get a chance to continue on its mission not just to end the No. 1 overall seed drought, but to try and win its first College World Series title. With a loss, Vitello and the Vols will have some vocal skeptics who’ll point out how the program has just 1 win in Omaha during this historically dominant 4-year stretch.

A pivotal showdown awaits. That’s anything but comforting.