This is the time of year that college baseball fans in the SEC want to be in Hoover, Alabama.
The Tennessee Baseball team hasn't made an appearance there in the last four years, one reason UT Athletic Director release Todd Raleigh from his duties this week.
While teams and coaches are in Hoover this weekend for the SEC Tourney a lot of names and speculation is rampant on who will be the next skipper for the Baseball Vols.
InsideTennessee.com has worked the phones and sources and feel that these four candidates are all viable options and may be at the top of UT's wish list. They make InsideTennessee.com's Top 4 Targets.
Holbrook is entering his third season as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator the Gamecock's Baseball program. Holbrook also serves as hitting instructor, oversees the USC offense, including base running and the short game and is the third base coach. He also works with the outfielders. Holbrook came to the South Carolina program in July of 2008 after serving 15 seasons as a member of the University of North Carolina coaching staff.
Holbrook's offensive prowess has made an immediate impact on the South Carolina baseball program in his first two seasons. His guidance was instrumental in helping the Gamecocks to the 2010 national championship and helping in the development of 2010 All-SEC selection and College World Series Most Outstanding Player, Jackie Bradley Jr., as well as Freshman All-America Christian Walker and SEC All-Freshman Evan Marzilli. Holbrook helped to oversee an offense that peaked in the postseason with a .309 batting average in 12 postseason contests. Marzilli, was the team's top postseason hitter with a .419 average (18-for-43) with Walker right behind him at .389 (21-for-54) and Bradley hitting .348 with four HR and 17 RBI. Carolina finished the season with a .300 team batting average as well as a .392 on-base percentage. The squad's 734 hits was second highest in the conference with the team also tallying 298 walks, 14th highest in the country. In 2009, Holbrook's first season, the Gamecocks finished with a team batting average of .310 on the year, the highest average in the last eight seasons, along with an improved on-base percentage of .394 and a .528 slugging percentage. Carolina was fifth in the nation with 109 home runs. Among the players he tutored that first year was Freshman All-America Jackie Bradley Jr. and 2009 All-SEC selections, Justin Dalles, Nick Ebert, Bobby Haney and Deangelo Mack.
The other top candidate appears to be someone familiar with Rocky Top, serving on the Tennessee Coaching staff in 1995-1996. Dave Serrano received his first head coaching job in 2005 at UC Irvine and took the Anteater program to the College World Series in 2007.
Following that World Series appearance he was hired as the Head Coach at Cal State Fullerton. In his first three seasons at Fullerton he has led the Titans to a 134-56 record and a College World Series appearance in 2009.
In all, Serrano has compiled a head coaching record of 248-122-1 (.670) and has averaged more than 41 wins a season in his six-year Div. I career. He has already notched milestone victories No. 200 on May 31, 2009, as the Titans punched their ticket to the 2009 Super Regional with a 16-3 over Utah at Goodwin Field, and will log No. 250 early in 2011.
Serrano earned his first career Big West Conference Coach of the Year nod in 2010 after guiding the Titans to a dominant 21-3 first-place finish. The year started off a bit shaky at 7-9, but Serrano quickly righted the ship and the team went on to win the last 11 weekend series and ascend to No. 7 in the nation in the national polls heading into the postseason.
Another candidate that appears to be on the Vols radar is another coach who has spent time in Knoxville. Oklahoma's pitching coach Mike Bell. Bell spent the 2005-2007 seasons at Tennessee as assistant coach and Recruiting Coordinator.
Bell completed his third season in Norman working with the OU pitchers in 2010 after spending the three previous seasons at the University of Tennessee, where he helped lead the Vols to the College World Series in 2005.
He duplicated that feat with the Sooners in 2010, helping the program make its first CWS appearance since 1995, and 10th overall. OU registered a program-record 583 strikeouts in 2010 en route to the program's lowest earned-run average (3.76) since 1984. Also in 2010, three OU hurlers were selected in the Major League Baseball draft, giving Bell 10 during his OU tenure. ??
Bell was named an assistant coach at Oklahoma on July 16, 2007, and in addition to his pitching coach duties, he assists with the program's recruiting efforts.??Four hurlers were selected in the 2009 MLB Draft under his guidance, including first round pick Garrett Richards. Richards was the Sooners' second first round pick in the last three years but the first pitcher since 2004 (David Purcey).
After his successful collegiate career at Florida State, Bell was selected in the 20th round of the 1995 draft by the Montreal Expos. He spent three years in the Expos organization (1995-97) and three more with the Baltimore Orioles (1998-2000). While in Baltimore, he advanced to play two seasons with the Orioles' Class-AA team, the Bowie Baysox, in 1999 and 2000.
Another name we are hearing in the search and appears to have interest in the position is Troy State Head Coach Bobby Pierce.
Since his arrival at Troy University in 2003, Coach Pierce has presided over a period of unprecedented growth in the Trojans Baseball program.
The success of the program on the field is obvious. In his eight seasons the Trojans have captured two conference titles, have been to two NCAA Regionals, produced six consecutive seasons with a national award winner, had nine All-Americans and has sent 20 players on to professional baseball.
In conference competition, the Trojans have produced 30 All-Conference selections, including two players who earned Pitcher of the Year honors, one who earned Player of the Year, one who was named Newcomer of the Year and, in 2009, a player named Freshman of the Year.
In terms of team results, the Trojans led the nation in runs scored in 2006 and have been in the top 10 nationally in home runs four times since Pierce has been in charge of the program. In the past eight years the Trojans have set new team season records in 10 offensive and 10 pitching categories.
Along with the production on the diamond, the baseball program at Troy under Pierce has regularly been among the best performing athletic programs at Troy University in the classroom. The program has posted a team GPA of better than 3.0 during many semesters and has almost 50 percent of the squad achieving that standard on a regular basis.
His Trojan team is currently the No. 21 nationally ranked team and won the Sun Belt-regular season title. They are currently 40-17 and is expected to be in post season NCAA play this season.