Tennessee opens up the baseball season on the road tonight in Chattanooga, where they take on the Memphis Tigers in the East-West Showdown. UT starts the season with 10 of their first 12 games on the road before their first home series against UC Irvine in the second week of March.
The Vols are coming off of a disappointing season, where they finished 24-26 overall and 11-18 in the SEC. The season did feature the second straight trip to Hoover for the Vols, the first back-to-back SEC Tournament appearances in a decade.
This season marks the final year of Dave Serrano's original five-year contract, and he will probably need to put together a team that reaches a NCAA Regional to receive a contract extension. This weekend will also feature Larry Simcox's return to Tennessee as he joins Serrano's staff. Simcox spent 17 years as an assistant coach under Rod Delmonico in Knoxville.
There has been a good amount of roster turnover for the Vols, with five of the twelve batters with 20 or more starts last season no longer on the team (three of which left early for the draft). The returning players combined for 49% of Tennessee's hits last year but only 34% of the RBIs. Returning junior, preseason All-SEC, and multiple preseason All-American third baseman Nick Senzel is the only returning player with more than 12 RBIs last season. He hit .325 with 4 home runs, 33 runs scored, 28 RBIs, and 7 stolen bases. The SEC coaches have picked the Vols to finish last in the East.
Memphis finished 2015 with a 37-21 record overall and 12-12 in the American Athletic Conference. They are led by preseason AAC Player of the Year Darien Tubbs and reigning NCBWA second team All-American Nolan Blackwood. The AAC's coaches picked Memphis to finish 7th in the eight team conference.
Memphis leads the all-time series against Tennessee 19-13, however the Vols have won 6 of the last 10 and are undefeated against the Tigers in both meetings under Dave Serrano (both in 2012, including UT's first ever in Memphis). The last time the two programs met in a three game series was in 1981 in Memphis, where the Vols dropped all three games.
This is the first game before April at AT&T Field since the Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins met in an exhibition match back on March 29, 2002.
East-West Showdown at AT&T Field
Tennessee Volunteers (0-0) (0-0 SEC) vs Memphis Tigers (0-0) (0-0 AAC)
Date: Friday-Sunday February 19-21, 2016
First Pitch: 5 p.m. ET Friday, 1 p.m. ET Saturday, 1 p.m. ET Sunday at AT&T Field, Chattanooga, TN
Probable Starting Pitchers:
UT LHP Andy Cox vs UM RHP Colton Hathcock
UT RHP Kyle Serrano vs UM RHP Connor Alexander
UT LHP Zach Warren vs UM LHP Matt Ferguson
Players to Keep an Eye on (2015 Stats):
|UT||LHP||Andy Cox||3.36||3-3 (3)||63||1.15||.247|
|UT||LHP||John Lipinski*||1.88||6-0 (1)||40||1.37||-|
|UM||RHP||Nolan Blackwood||0.52||2-1 (14)||16||1.01||.225|
*at Palm Beach State