Thursday, November 29, 2012

SxSE: Tennessee Volunteers Baseball, 1897-2012

After a century of ups and downs and mostly squandered potential, the Volunteers have have struggled with mediocrity over the past several years.  They would, at this point, not even be considered an NCAA Regional team, but an SEC Tournament team at best.  Hope is on the horizon, though, as the Vols have hired one of the top coaches in college baseball, Dave Serrano, who they hope can not just rebuild the program but take it to a level of consistent success Vols fans have never known.  Over the past 10 years the Volunteers have averaged a W-L record of 34-26.

Tennessee has been playing intercollegiate baseball since 1897.

Volunteer Baseball has an interesting record of avoiding undue momentum.

Until 1903, UT followed the coach-of-the-year program, with underwhelming results.

In 1903 Frank Moffett took over the program through 1910, except for a hiatus in 1906. Moffett started off slow, but built up some momentum, achieving a 16-3 (.842) record in 1909, followed by a mere .771 in 1907 and .611 in 1908. Whereupon he left and ended up coaching for the Knoxville team in the Appalachian League, except for a 1-year stint back at UT in 1918, where he compiled a .800 winning percentage. Before leaving again.

Z.G. Clevenger started off slow in 1911, but by 1916 he compiled a 13-5, .722 record. But his success in his other job, the UT football coach, led him to abandon Volunteers Baseball. He eventually returned to UT as the Athletic Director, but not before spending 1921-1923 as the A.D. at Mizzou.

From 1917 through 1962 the team was fairly mediocre.

S.W. Anderson produced one of the worst season records, a .196 winning percent in 1948. He also was responsible for an .870 year and an SEC Championship and College World Series appearance three years later in 1951. A year later he was replaced.

Bill Wright coached some pretty good teams to some pretty good records from 1963 to 1981, resulting in a couple of 1st place finishes in the SEC East and a bunch of 2nd place finishes.

John Whited continued the tradition of 2nd place finishes for his first 3 years, until he finished 5th and then 10th twice and was replaced by Mark Connor, who continued the tradition of 9th and 10th place finishes.

And then came Rod Delmonico, who coached from 1990 to 2007 and posted some SEC Championships and a three trips to the College World Series (1995, 2001 and 2005). In between those great years were several 4th and 5th place finishes. Check out
He was replaced in 2008 by Todd Raleigh, who spent four years fine tuning that tradition into a 5th or 6th place broken record.

Finally they decided to get serious and hired Dave Serrano beginning with the 2012 season, who had taken UC-Irvine and Cal State-Fullerton to the College World Series. Everyone has confidence Serrano can build the program into a contender and see bring some success to the Volunteers. And if they stay the course set for the past 115 years, they'll do something to nip that momentum in the bud before it takes them too far.

Notable Tennessee Volunteer Ballplayers

Tennessee Volunteers Baseball in 2012

The 2012 Volunteers finished 24-31, 8-22 in the SEC.  They failed to qualify for the SEC Tournament and did not go to the NCAA Regionals.

Two-part Interview w/Tennessee & USA Baseball Coach Dave Serrano ( VIDEO - Part I / Part II)

Baseball Vols Wrap Up Season (Times Free Press)
Midway through the SEC baseball season, Tennessee was one game under .500 in league play and right in the middle of the standings.

The Volunteers had wins over then-unbeaten Kentucky, national powers South Carolina and Florida and a sweep of Alabama.

After a difficult sweep at Mississippi State that featured two extra-inning losses, though, the bottom fell out, and UT won just once more in SEC play and lost 16 of their final 18 games after a season-ending sweep from Arkansas in Knoxville this weekend.

"I don't know if I have ever felt this empty honestly," said first-year coach Dave Serrano, who's taken Cal State Fullerton and California-Irvine to the College World Series in his coaching career. "That can sound spoiled, but I have been spoiled in my career, I've been spoiled to be around a lot of great coaches, a lot of great teams. This is the first time that the end of the schedule meant the end of the season.
. . .
The season figured to be a struggle for the Vols, but the solid early start created some momentum and hope that UT might overachieve or at least accomplish its goal. UT loses six seniors, three of whom were every-day players, and two-way junior Drew Steckenrider has enough talent to go in the Major League draft in early June. With Serrano's winning track record, there's hope in the future.

"They're the best coaching staff in the country," Maddox said. "We've just got to trust them and everybody's got to buy into it and we'll be good. I think everyone enjoyed playing for them this year, and they've done so much for this program that I'm excited about next year."

Serrano and his staff have been successful on the recruiting trail. The Vols signed 13 players for next season in the fall and could add more. Adding more talent to the roster's is essential for competing in the SEC and completing the rebuilding job.

"We didn't reach our goals," Serrano said. "I have to look at myself in the mirror every day. I know we committed to this team, and I feel that this team committed to us. Whenever there is change, sometimes there are things that go on and people don't buy into it.

"I think these guys bought into it, but we were short in some areas and when I had to make some tough decisions in regards to personnel, it didn't help our situation. But I wouldn't change it. I don't second-guess myself because it's about doing the things that are right for this baseball program and this university."

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