SEC Baseball Preview: Tennessee

After 18 seasons and three College World Series appearances, Tennessee fired baseball coach Rod Delmonico, concerned about the program's lack of consistency. Todd Raleigh was hired from Western Carolina, charged with making the Vols a regular in the NCAA Tournament. went to its experts at each of the 12 SEC schools to put together preseason scouting reports for all the league teams. Now up: Tennessee

Raleigh will have a different approach. While Delmonico preferred small ball – the Vols hit just 49 home runs last season – Raleigh likes bashers.

"Tennessee's baseball teams will be prepared mentally and physically to play every day," said Raleigh, who has eight returners who made at least 25 starts. "We'll be physical. We'll have big, strong athletic guys that can bang the ball around a little bit."

Tennessee lost three first-round draft picks – pitcher James Adkins, catcher J.P. Arencibia and outfielder Julio Borbon. Also gone are pitcher Craig Cobb and All-SEC infielder Tony Delmonico, son of the coach who transferred to Florida State.

And 20 of the 34 pitching wins have departed. But Raleigh promises to put a competitive team on the field.

The top returning hitter is Andy Simunic, who hit .333 and stole 29 bases. Pitcher-outfielder Jeff Lockwood is a budding star. As a freshman, he hit .315 with 34 runs batted in while going 2-2 with eight saves and a 4.44 ERA.

Five other position starters return, led by third baseman Cody Brown (six homers, 34 RBI despite a bum shoulder), catcher Yan Gomes (.310, eight homers, 47 RBI) and shortstop Danny Lima (.280). Shawn Griffin (.268) and Jarred Frazier (.275) are returning outfielders while true freshman Kentrail Davis could land the centerfield job. Freshman Josh Liles will battle in rightfield.

Raleigh lured Fred Corral back as pitching coach. The bullpen should be solid with Lockwood, Aaron Everett (4-0, 2.82 ERA, 46 strikeouts in 44.2 innings) and Danny Wiltz, although Lockwood could become a starter. Nick Hernandez (4-4) had trouble with his control and posted a 6.23 ERA. Bryan Morgado missed last season with an injury but could make the rotation. Three transfers -- Steve Crnkovich, Joey Rosas and D.J. Leffler – add depth.

If the Vols stay healthy and the new rotation comes though, UT could be a surprise team in the SEC East.

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