The Tennessee baseball team begins SEC play this weekend as they head to Athens, Georgia to take on the Georgia Bulldogs. This an exciting weekend for the program as the team begins to get into the tough part of their schedule. We will soon see just how much Coach Dave Serrano has turned this program around.
The Vols come into this weekend on the heels of a disappointing weekend and an equally disappointing loss to Tennessee Tech on Tuesday. They will come into the Friday contest on a 3 game losing streak and with an overall record of just 10-6 after starting the season 7-0.
Their season statistics remain fairly good, as they have posted a line of .271/.388/.373/.761 (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) on offense. Their pitching has been shaky in the recent games, and their team ERA is up to 3.81 with 115 strikeouts and 54 walks in 141 innings.
The Vols continue to get on base at an excellent clip, but they continue to squander their ample baserunners. Volunteer baserunners are just 25-45 in stolen base attempts. This comes out to 55.56% which is simply unacceptable. Coach Serrano has always advocated an aggressive style, but this team has run (pun intended) into many problems trying to implement this style. Serrano has mentioned that baserunners have been missing signs, but numbers like this are pretty inexcusable. I know I highlight this on every preview, but I think it is very important. You simply can’t score runs if your baserunners constantly make outs on the basepaths.
The Bulldogs come into this series with an impressive 13-5 record and #19 ranking. They too started the season off hot, as they jumped out to an impressive 8-0 start. However, they are coming off a sweep at the hands of UCLA this past weekend, and their opponent record sits at 62-75 on the season.
Georgia’s offense comes in having posted an impressive .279/.376/.389/.765 line on offense this season. They are led by Knoxville’s own Curt Powell. He has set the table very well for the Dawgs this season, posting a .375/.475/.479/.954 line to go along with 14 runs scored and 7 RBI. Junior Shortstop Kyle Farmer has also played very well for Georgia this season. He has a line of .311/.350/.514/.864 with 1 HR, 14 Runs, and 14RBI in 17 games.
The Bulldogs pitching staff has also pitched very well on the season, posting a 2.67 ERA with 135K’s and 40BB’s in 162 innings. Georgia has 10 pitchers with ERA’s under 2.
What to expect
UT: Nick Blount (2-1, 5.56)
UGA: Alex Wood (3-1, 2.36)
This is an unexpected move from Coach Serrano, pitching Nick Blount on Friday. Blount has struggled this season, posting a 5.56 ERA with 9 strikeouts and 4 walks in 22.2 innings. He’ll have to pitch well if the Vols hope to win this game.
The Bulldogs will send redshirt Sophomore Alex Wood to the mound. He has impressed early in this season, as he comes into the game with a 2.36 ERA with 31 strikeouts and only 2 walks in 26.2 innings. The Volunteer batters will have to figure this lefty out and post some crooked numbers on the scoreboard if they hope to win this game.
UT: Zack Godley (3-0, 1.44)
UGA: Pete Nagel (0-0, 1.56)
Zack Godley has been a real bright spot in this Tennessee rotation. He’ll come into the game with a 1.44 ERA, 23K’s, and 4BB’s in 25 solid innings of pitching.
Pete Nagel has made 3 starts on the season and has yet to record a decision, however it isn’t because he has pitched poorly. He has posted a 1.56 ERA with 15 strikeouts and 4 walks in 17.1 innings.
This might be the best match-up of the series, and it will probably be the most winnable game (don’t get me wrong, all of them are winnable) for UT. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind pitching Godley Saturday, but it will give the Vols a better chance to win the middle game of this series.
UGA: Michael Palazzone (0-1, 3.71)
Once again, Coach Serrano will not announce his Sunday starter until Sunday. This past weekend he sent Robbie Kidd to the hill, and this proved to be a disaster. He went only 2/3 of an inning, giving up 4 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks. Conner Stevens pitched well in the game, going 3.1 innings and giving up no hits and no runs while walking 2 Louisiana-Monroe batters, so he is a reasonable candidate to get a start on Sunday. Coach Serrano has said Drew Steckenrider gives the Vols maximum value out of the bullpen, so expect him to pitch at some point during the weekend, but don’t expect him to start.
Michael Palazzone has been middle of the road for the Bulldogs thus far, posting a 3.71 ERA with 10 strikeouts and 4 walks in 17 innings. He has an 0-1 record in 3 starts for Georgia on the season.
This may very well be a rubber match for the series, as I don’t see the Vols picking up a win on Friday unless Nick Blount pitches significantly better. The Saturday game is very winnable, and the Sunday game remains a question.
Look for the Vols to come out trying to make a statement, I think they have a good chance to win this series. With that being said, I think the only disappointing outcome would be a sweep. Every game is very winnable for the Volunteers, but every game is also losable. The SEC is a true gauntlet, and this is just the begging. It should be an exciting weekend for the Vols one way or the other.