Tennessee baseball’s road to its first College World Series Championship

Tennessee's Blake Burke (25) holds up the NCAA baseball trophy during the NCAA Baseball National Championship parade in Downtown Knoxville on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.
Tennessee's Blake Burke (25) holds up the NCAA baseball trophy during the NCAA Baseball National Championship parade in Downtown Knoxville on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. / Angelina Alcantar/News Sentinel / USA

Tennessee baseball won its first national championship Monday night, 127 years in the making. The Vols’ first season was in 1897. Tennessee played two seasons in the 1800s, with 1899 marking the second season in program history.

The 19th-century Vols went 6-11 in their two seasons before the turn of the century, marking the beginning of mediocrity for the next 50 years. 1908 and 1909 were the Vols best seasons with a combined 34-7-1 over those two seasons.

Beyond those two years, Tennessee struggled to put together winning seasons until 1951. The Vols went 20-3, including 16-1 in SEC play, and the Vols made their first trip to Omaha in the College World Series.
They were runner-up, losing the championship to Oklahoma, but this marked the best season in program history to date.

The Vols fell back into mediocrity after that before putting together a few solid seasons in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This marked the first conference division titles in program history. The Vols won division championships in 1966 and 1970.

It was another 20 years after that before the Vols got hot in the 1990s and rattled off a few SEC Championships and more NCAA Tournament appearances. The Vols made the NCAA Tournament five straight years in the 90s, including the program’s second College World Series appearance in 1995.

Tennessee rattled off back-to-back 50-win seasons in 1994 and 1995. The turn of the millennium was good to the Vols as well. The Vols made two more trips to Omaha in 2001 and 2005.

Skip ahead another decade, and we enter the Tony Vitello era. Tennessee hired Vitello in 2017, and the Vols got their first taste of success since the early 2000s during the 2019 season.

Vitello’s Vols made their first CWS appearance under Vitello’s leadership in 2021, marking Tennessee’s first 50-win season since 1995. Tennessee missed out on another CWS appearance in 2022 but came back for revenge, earning back-to-back trips to Omaha in 2023 and 2024.

Tennessee has five straight winning seasons in SEC play, including two SEC Championships, two SEC Tournament Championships, four NCAA Tournament Regional Championships, and three appearances in the College World Series.

The Vols went 0-2 in the 2021 CWS before getting their first win in Omaha under Vitello in 2023 against Stanford, finishing the tournament 1-2.

2024 was Tennessee’s breakout season after being doubted and underrated. Tennessee won the regular season SEC Championship and SEC Tournament Championship, swept the regional, won the super regional, and went 5-1 on their way to the program’s first National Championship.

The 2024 Vols were one of the best teams in the country and all-time. The Vols hit 184 home runs, four shy of LSU’s record 188. No other team has gotten close to the record before Tennessee.

While the Vols didn’t quite reach LSU’s home run mark for a single season, the Vols did tie LSU’s home run record set in the 1998 NCAA Tournament with 37 total home runs. On Monday night, Tennessee’s two home runs tied LSU’s mark for most home runs in a single NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee is also the first No. 1 seed since 1999 to win the College World Series. They were also the first team in SEC history to win 60 games, and it was the first time since 1989 that any team had won 60 games in a season.

Some draft-eligible Vols will look to be first-round draft picks, adding to the pool of Vitello-era Vols throughout the minor leagues and MLB.

Christian Moore, Blake Burke, and Drew Beam, among many more Vols, were key pieces in winning Tennessee’s first national championship in program history. They will have the opportunity to be rewarded for their hard work in July with the MLB Draft.

Next. Tony Vitello’s historic transformation of Tennessee baseball. Tony Vitello’s historic transformation of Tennessee baseball. dark