Next stop: Hoover
For the first time with Dave Serrano as its head coach, Tennessee will play posteason baseball. With a 12-18 record in Southeastern Conference play the Volunteers secured the No. 11 seed in the league tournament and draw No. 6-seeded Vanderbilt. First pitch is Tuesday morning at 9:30 CST. The last time Tennessee reached the postseason and stepped foot onto the Bermuda in Hoover was 2007. That version of the Orange & White beat Vanderbilt before falling to Ole Miss and in a rematch against the Commodores. The tourney field wasn't nearly as deep then and to simply get there took a more impressive regular season than current teams must have. In fact, in that SECT opener the Vols had three eventual big leaguers (Julio Borbon, J.P. Arencibia and Yan Gomes) and six others that played in the minor leagues after their college days were finished. Andy Simunic wound up playing 77 games of Triple-A ball but never quite broke through to the MLB's. Tennessee enters the tourney after a nice 7-5 victory over regular-season SEC champion Florida on Saturday afternoon. Starter Andy Cox improved to 5-1 with seven solid innings with Kyle Serrano bridging the gap to now-closer Andrew Lee, who got his fourth save. Florida used eight pitchers that gave up 10 hits with sophomores Vincent Jackson and A.J. Simcox providing a pair of knocks each. In the latter stages of the summer, Vanderbilt right-handed pitcher Tyler Beede will be offered several millions of dollars to forgo his final season of college eligibility to play professional baseball. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder hasn't had an exceptionally productive season by his standards but is still one of the top 15 MLB Draft prospects. If Tim Corbin points to Beede then the Vols must work counts as the righty has labored to keep his pitch count low at times. Vanderbilt has an RPI that ranks in the top 10 so it isn't sweating an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. Corbin could elect to go further down the staff to call on an arm to face the Volunteers before altering a gameplan should they advance. Getting back to Omaha is the priority in Nashville, not exhausting every arm on staff in Hoover to get a slightly higher seed. On the flip side, Tennessee isn't on the fast track to get an at-large bid. If it loses to the ‘Dores, chances are that's it for 2014. The SEC bracket expanded prior to the 2013 season but those four extra slots mean four single-elimination games on Tuesday. Thus, Serrano will have a short leash on whatever starter he selects whether it's Hunter Martin, Nick Williams or whomever. Christin Stewart is the only Tennessee player to start all 53 games this season. The left-handed bat led the team with a .336 average and five home runs with 39 RBIs. The action changes to a double-elimination format for the next three days before the semifinals and championship revert to single elimination. Should the Vols eliminate the ‘Dores, it'll be back to bed early with first pitch for the next game coming against No. 3-seed LSU on Wednesday morning at 9:30.
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