These are the days before the long days in Knoxville. Spring Practice rages on for one more week, with the Orange & White Game on the horizon in just eight days. The NFL Draft will show up the following week, with a faint hope for guys like Tauren Poole to hear their names called. And then May will arrive, and with it the longest and darkest part of the offseason...the part that drags on until July brings the promise of SEC Media Days and a new video game from EA Sports, and we can start counting down using math that actually means something. Until then, we're left to turn our hearts toward the Predators, or the NBA Playoffs, or, for many of us, the long slow march of the Atlanta Braves.
But in less than a year on campus, Dave Serrano is now doing something that might ease the offseason pain just a bit. A Tennessee Baseball program that was completely irrelevant on campus during the entire reign of Todd Raleigh now finds itself in the midst of a meaningful SEC campaign. Dave Serrano's Vols are 20-13 and have fought their way to a 6-6 mark in SEC play to this point thanks to a sweep of Alabama and the ability to steal a game from teams better than them, including Kentucky and South Carolina, who are both in the Top 15 in RPI - a metric the Vols currently find themselves 60th in.
A tough loss at South Carolina last weekend and a midweek stumble at ETSU may have dimmed things a bit, but a huge opportunity awaits this weekend at Lindsey Nelson: the Florida Gators, number four in the polls and number one in RPI, come to Knoxville.
Tennessee's 6-6 mark in league play is currently tied for fifth with Auburn and Ole Miss; the Gators are 26-7 overall but just 7-5 in a league led by Kentucky at 9-3. The Top 10 teams make the SEC Tournament in late May, a place Todd Raleigh never discovered. But right now the entire league rests between 4-8 and 9-3, so there are no guarantees.
What does appear to be a guarantee is that Serrano has this program going the right way in a hurry. The Vols have gone from irrelevant to competitive in less than a year, led by young talent like Drew Steckenrider, Will Maddox, Zack Godley, and Nick Blount. This Tennessee team is scrappy, an always-lovable quality on the diamond. And with 18 league games left to play, who knows what kind of season these kids could finish up with. There are several on this blog who've seen more and know more about this team than I have - I'll let them weigh in on other postseason opportunities that may be out there. But doing some damage this weekend against this opponent would be the biggest moment yet for Serrano and the Vols. You want info on this weekend's series, here's everything you could possibly need and more from the official site.
We've been following along with the Diamond Vols here and there, and there's another great chance to do so this weekend: the Vols and Gators open their series tonight at 6:00 PM ET, then play tomorrow at 3:00 PM on SportsSouth before closing Sunday at 2:00 PM; the home games that aren't televised always stream free thanks to the good folks at UTSports.com. Even better, you can get in the gate for as little as four bucks - buy tickets here. As always, we don't push the Vols because the university asks us to - this team has truly become fun to watch, and as football prepares to return to hibernation, Tennessee Baseball is more than ready to carry the torch into the summer again.
Feel free to use this as the weekend thread as Tennessee and Florida collide. We hope there's more to come.