The Tennessee Volunteers enter the 2020 season with high hopes. They exceeded everyone’s expectations and made a great run last year. We’ll break down how the Volunteers shape up heading into the season.
2019 Record: 40-21 (14-16)
2019 Postseason: 2-2 in Chapel Hill Regional
Perfect Game Recruiting Class: 7th
2020 Prediction: 6th in the East
Head coach Tony Vitello made tremendous strides for the Tennessee baseball program in just his second year. Against all predictions, he led the Volunteers to one of their best seasons in program history and brought them back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.
The season started with a bang stringing off 15 consecutive wins. This included a three-game sweep over Big Ten powerhouse Indiana. The Volunteers dominated in the nonconference posting a 24-2 record.
They struggled in SEC play but it was enough to make the tournament. The season culminated in the Chapel Hill Regional where they went 2-2 but lost to North Carolina in the end.
Notable Nonconference Games
February 21: No.6 Texas Tech 46-20, 11 RPI
February 22: Houston 32-24, 42 RPI
February 23: No.17 Stanford 45-14, 10 RPI
March 6-8: Wright State 42-17, 87 RPI
Tennessee finds themselves in the Round Rock Classic in Round Rock, Texas the second weekend of the season. The lineup they got is brutal. They’ll get Texas Tech who nearly made the final series in the College World Series ago, losing to runner-up Michigan.
Next, they’ll have Houston who is no walk in the park. Houston had a solid season in 2019 but missed out on an at large bid after faltering towards the end of the year, dropping five of the final six games.
They’ll finish off the weekend against preseason ranked No.17 Stanford. The Cardinal won their own regional before going 0-2 in the Super Regional against Mississippi State.
The only other major nonconference opponent is Wright State in the final weekend before SEC play. Wright State as always should be a respectable team that will be looking to come into Knoxville and steal one or two from an SEC team.
SEC West Opponents
March 26-28: No.11 LSU
April 10-12: @ Alabama
May 8-10: @ No.20 Texas A&M
May 14-16: No.7 Arkansas
Not Playing: No.8 Auburn, No.10 Mississippi State, No.25 Ole Miss
Tennessee earned a somewhat favorable draw for their SEC West slate. The two toughest teams they play in No.11 LSU and No.7 Arkansas will both be played in their home park. The crowd on the road against Texas A&M is never an easy environment. Tennessee will want to avoid any sweeps in these games.
The road series against Alabama will be an opportunity for Tennessee. The two teams are fairly evenly matched. Tennessee will likely be a little worse off after last season and Alabama is hoping to take a few steps forward.
RHP Elijah Pleasants: 0-0, 2.45 ERA
LHP Garrett Crochet: 5-3, 4.02 ERA
RHP Chase Wallace: 0-0, 1.35 ERA
RHP Camden Sewell: 4-1, 2.18 ERA
Tennessee’s pitching will go a long way to determining which way the season goes. They lost 41 starts from last season including three of the four pitchers with the most innings pitched. They’ll have a tall task in replacing ace Garrett Stallings.
Garrett Crochet will definitely be in the weekend rotation. Crochet started six games last season and returns with the most innings pitched from the returning staff. The lefty has Friday night stuff and is will be on draft boards this season.
The other two spots will be more difficult to fill but Camden Sewell should be a definite player. He had five starts in 2019 and pitched 45.1 innings. Another year of experience should make him a viable candidate for the Saturday spot for the Vols.
Elijah Peasants and Chase Wallace are two more potential starters. Neither player pitched more than eleven innings a year ago. Both pitchers have developed nicely in the Fall. Coach Vitello is impressed with their improvement and expects a more prominent roll this season for both.
Junior outfielder Alerick Soularie returns the most power to the lineup from 2019. The JUCO product led the Vols in offense last year and is certain to be a terror for opposing pitchers this season. He slashed .357/.466/.602 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs.
Junior Evan Russell will also be another powerful bat in the lineup. According to Vitello he has embraced the leadership role and has bulked up in the weight room. He’s sure to improve upon a .274, six homerun season a year ago.
Luc Lipcius, the brother of third-round pick Andre Lipcius, looks to take over the first base job. Lipcius battled injuries last year but slashed .347/.459/.694 in 16 starts. He was well on his way to a dominant year and should finish that breakout season this year.
Tennessee has some major holes to fill with the departure of Garrett Stallings and Andre Lipcius. Tony Vitello has the pieces available to fill those voids. The rotation looks to be in good hands with Crochet and Sewell stepping into bigger roles.
The offense appears to be poised to stay steady with last year’s production. They have some new faces with transfers and incoming freshmen that are ready to make an impact immediately. A slew of experienced players from last season will also need to take the leap and factor into the offense.
Should the pieces fall into place Tennessee hopes to be a difficult for any team any given weekend. They might not have the lights out shut down ace from last season but can definitely compete through Sunday in each series.
“From Our Haus to Yours”