Tonight Tennessee opens up the baseball season on the road in Memphis as they take on the Tigers in a three game series. This is the second season in a row where the teams will square off on opening weekend. Afterward they will travel to Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles for a game before the Tony Gwynn Classic in San Diego.
2016 saw Tennessee improve upon their overall record from the previous season, posting a 29-28 record (24-26 in 2015). They took a step back in conference play though: finishing 9-21, down from 11-18 in 2015. The Vols did manage to make their third straight SEC tournament, the first stretch of that many for the Vols since they made it five straight in the 1990's.
Dave Serrano's original five year contract ran out last summer after the season ended. He was retained by Dave Hart for an additional year which means he'll once again be coaching for his job, assuming an athletic director is ever chosen to make that decision. Serrano is 130-138 in his five years in Knoxville and has posted two winning seasons.
The Vols welcomed Colorado Rockies Legend and former UT All-American Todd Helton back to Knoxville as the director of player development. In addition to Helton two other former Vols joined the program as undergraduate assistants: Steven Gruver (who pitched three seasons from 2009-2011) and Taylor Smart (2013-2014) as they finish their degrees.
Once again Tennessee will have a lot of new faces playing in the field. Last year the Vols returned 49% of their hits from 2015 and 34% of their RBIs. This season sees the seven returning position players bringing back 38% of hits and 33% of RBIs. Eleven Volunteer pitchers are back from last year, with 63% of the innings pitched. 17 new players are in Knoxville this spring: fourteen freshmen, one graduate transfer, and two JUCO transfers.
Memphis finished last season with a 22-39 record and placed sixth out of eight teams in the AAC. They have one preseason AAC All-Conference selection in outfielder Chris Carrier who hit .280 last season with 38 RBIs and 6 home runs. Last season’s second team All-Conference second baseman Brandon Grudzielanek is also back in Memphis for his senior year. He hit .292 with 32 RBIs and 39 runs scored. The AAC's coaches picked Memphis to finished tied with UCF in seventh place in the conference.
Memphis leads the all-time series against the Vols 20-15. Tennessee has won four of five games during Serrano's tenure, including two of three last season when the teams met in the East-West Showdown in Chattanooga to open the year. The Tigers are 13-1 in Memphis against the Vols, but the lone defeat came at the hands of Serrano's 2012 team.
Tennessee Volunteers (0-0) at Memphis Tigers (0-0)
Date: Friday-Sunday February 17-19, 2017
First Pitch: 5 p.m. ET Friday, 3 p.m. ET Saturday, 2 p.m. ET Sunday at FedEx Park, Memphis, TN
Live Audio: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on UTSports
Internet Video: MemphisTigersNetwork($)
Live Stats: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on StatsBroadcast
Probable Starting Pitchers:
UT RHP Hunter Martin vs UM RHP Tyler Walton
UT LHP Zach Warren vs UM LHP Drew Crosby
UT RHP Will Neely vs UM RHP Connor Alexander
Returning Players 2016 Stats
|Hunter Martin||RHP||2.03||40||.308||20||3-3 (1)|
|Daniel Vasquez||RHP||3.77||31||.310||25||1-2 (1)|
|Jon Lipinski||RHP||5.40||30||.300||26||3-1 (3)|