Vol baseball picks up another

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Andrew Plunkett gave himself an early birthday present and provided Tennessee baseball coach Dave Serrano with a smile on Tuesday night.

Plunkett, who has a birthday coming on March 2, gave a verbal commitment to the Volunteers, giving them three already for the Class of 2013.

The trio of future Vols are all in-state talents ad Plunkett joins Columbia Central right-handed pitcher Hayden Stone and Farragut center fielder Cameron Strickland as pledges.

Plunkett gave up football to concentrate on baseball for Memphis University School and the move appears to have paid off as the outfielder now has the opportunity to not only extend his career but also to compete in the Southeastern Conference.

"I tell you what, before we even talk about baseball, he's probably one of the finest young men I've ever been around in my life," MUS baseball coach Johnny Beard told InsideTennessee. "He's a joy to be around on the field, off the field, a great, great kid. Whether he can play a lick of sports or not, he's going to be a good fit for UT."

Beard plans to hit the future Vol in the cleanup spot. Plunkett, who plays his summer baseball for Dulin's Dodgers, bats and throws right-handed.

"He's 6-4, 185 and can probably add another 25-30 pounds without any problem," Beard said. "He's a strong kid. He runs very well.

"He's got a chance to be a very special player — plus speed, plus arm, hits for power and he'll hit for average too. Just a good, good baseball player."

Plunkett works in the mid-80s when he is on the mound and touched 89 last summer. Even though he jammed a finger on his throwing hand during the TSSAA Div. II Class AA state tournament last May, he still tossed a gutsy four innings in the championship versus Christian Brothers.

"We were down there loosening him up and he told us, 'I want to go if I can,'" Beard said.

"He's just that type of kid. He'll dive through a wall for you. I love him to death."

Plunkett allowed five hits but only one walk and one run while fanning two that day. He came in to hit as well and singled. In spite of his effort, Christian Brothers held on for a 4-2 victory.

Plunkett will have at least one familiar face waiting on him when he arrives in Knoxville as former MUS teammate Jason Manis is a freshman catcher for the Vols. Manis was a Tennessee Sports Writers Association all-state team member after hitting .410 with 28 RBIs and two home runs last season.

The Owls went 32-9 last season. They hope to duplicate their success and finish the task at the BlueCross Spring Fling this season. They open up their season in Ft. Walton, Fla., on March 12.

Plunkett is already impressing in practice as he gears up for his junior campaign.

"Even with the new BBCOR and we're using 2-3 year-old balls during batting practice because it's been so wet, he's driving them out of the park during BP. He's just that strong of a kid," Beard said.

Danny Parker is currently the Associate Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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