There’s always a moment of truth in every championship run.

It doesn’t have to be on the final play of the final game, the kind that’s usually played in slow motion in every sports movie that’s ever been made. Sometimes it happens in the very first game of a tournament.

That could very well be the case if Tennessee goes on to become the first top overall seed in a quarter century to win the College World Series title.

The Volunteers’ potential turning point came in the bottom of the 9th of their opener in Omaha last Friday night. Trailing Florida State by 3 just 1 strike from being relegated to the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination event, they pulled themselves off the deck and rallied for a dramatic walkoff victory.

And off and running they went.

Like a snowball picking up speed and growing larger as it rolls down a hill, Tony Vitello and his team have gotten better and more confident with each subsequent game they’ve played.

It’s a wave that has carried them into the championship round for the 1st time in the modern era and put them in position to be the first No. 1 overall seed to take home the championship trophy since Miami did it in 1999.

The best-of-3 series against Texas A&M, scheduled to begin on Saturday, will be the 2nd straight all-SEC final and the 4th time in the past 7 College World Series’ that conference rivals will meet to decide the title.

Tennessee earned its spot in the championship series with a 7-2 victory in Wednesday’s rematch with Florida State.

It was a master class in how a championship-caliber team is supposed to handle an opponent in a close-out situation. The Vols established their superiority early by taking advantage of the Seminoles’ taxed pitching staff to score 3 runs in the top of the 1st and kept the hammer down dominating the last of the ACC’s 4 remaining teams in every conceivable aspect of the game.

There was plenty of offense, as you’d expect. The top 3 hitters in the batting order – Christian Moore, Blake Burke and Billy Amick – were a combined 7-for-14 with 5 of the 7 runs scored and 4 driven in.

Burke’s exclamation point homer in the top of the 9th was his 20th of the season, making Tennessee the first team in Division I history to have 5 players with at least that many in a season. They lead the country with 178 home runs — 45 more than the Aggies, who lost their top slugger Braden Montgomery in the Super Regionals.

But these Vols are more than just a team of big bats bludgeoning the opposition into submission.

They’ve put almost as many dents in the wall of Charles Schwab Field from outfielders crashing into it after making circus catches as they’ve hit balls over it in their 3 wins in Omaha.

Wednesday’s SportsCenter Top 10 highlight belonged to centerfielder Kavares Tears, who chased down a 1st inning drive by FSU’s Marco Dinges and corralled it just as he ran out of room. The collision sent his sunglasses and hat flying in one direction and his body falling to the ground in the other.

It was a defensive gem that did more than just end the top of the 1st and prevent the Seminoles from answering Tennessee’s early rally with a quick response. In the estimation of starting pitcher Zander Sechrist, it set a tone that carried through the remainder of the game.

In addition to the hitting and the defense, the Vols have also been dominant on the mound.

Following the lead of teammate Drew Beam, the winning pitcher in Sunday’s 6-1 winner’s bracket victory against North Carolina, Sechrist was equally as dominating against an FSU lineup averaging 9 runs per game this season. He shut the Seminoles out for the 1st 6 innings before giving up a pair of solo homers and giving way to Kenny Powers lookalike Kirby Connell and the bullpen.

“That’s a good team in the other dugout – well-constructed, variety of arms, physical offensively, dynamic, athletic,” Seminoles coach Link Jarrett said. “They made some exceptional plays. You could basically go around the diamond and make note of all the exceptional plays they made.”

There’s a certain symmetry to the fact that the Vols took down Jarrett’s team to get to the championship series. He was the coach at Notre Dame 2 years ago when the Irish upset Tennessee in the Super Regionals to prevent the Vols from making the trip to Omaha.

Now that they’ve exorcized that demon, they can set their sights on slaying an even bigger dragon.

“We always say before something happens, something happens,” Vitello said. “There’s been a lot of build-up into the successes we’ve had this year and the failures too, to be honest with you. It’s been fun to be a part of.”

No Division I team has more victories since 2021 than the 209 earned by the Vols. But despite making 2 previous CWS trips during that span, they’re still hunting a national championship.

There’s still work left to do.

But the way they’ve looked since surviving that moment of truth in their opening game, you get the feeling that they’re a team whose time has finally arrived.