When it comes to college baseball, the Southeastern Conference has been known to be well represented in both the top 25 poll and at season’s end in Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series. It’s a conference littered with elite prospects at the plate and on the pitcher’s mound. While it isn’t a surprise to see the perennial contenders such as LSU (No. 1), Vanderbilt (No. 2), Florida (No. 3), Mississippi (No. 10), Arkansas (No.12), Georgia (No. 13), Mississippi State (No.15), and Auburn (No.20) among the nation’s best, there may be another SEC university looking to jump into that conversation soon as well — Tennessee.
Prior to the season, many college baseball critics and fans viewed the Volunteers as a middle of the pack team that would probably finish near the bottom of the conference standings. However, the Vols have been making an early argument to be considered among not only the conference, but also the nation’s elite.
It was thought that the stronghold of the Tennessee baseball team would be the pitching staff and through nine games, they have not disappointed. The Vols currently lead the NCAA in earned run average at an impressive 0.44 after notching their sixth shutout of the season against Middle Tennessee on Wednesday.
Saturday starter Zach Linginfelter (2-0) has dazzled on the mound for the Vols in wins over Appalachian State and Indiana. After his first two starts, Linginfelter boasts a perfect 0.00 ERA in 11 innings pitched. His only fault thus far has been allowing five walks, but he has countered that by giving up only four hits and providing a team high 18 strikeouts.
The Vols ace starting pitcher Garrett Stallings (2-0), who is ranked 119th among 2019 MLB draft prospects, has been nearly flawless through his first two starts of the season with wins of his own over Appalachian State and Indiana. In 14 innings pitched, he has allowed only six hits, zero walks and only one earned run. He ranks second to only Linginfelter with 17 strikeouts.
Sean Hunley (2-0), one of Tennessee’s mid-week starters, also sports a perfect 0.00 ERA through his first two starts after getting wins against Northern Kentucky and Liberty. In those two starts, Hunley has allowed just five hits in 11 innings while striking out seven.
The Volunteers bullpen has been equally impressive as relievers Redmond Walsh, Chase Silseth, Andrew Schultz, Camden Sewell, and Chase Wallace have all appeared in at least three games while maintaining a perfect 0.00 ERA. Walsh and Shultz are also tied for a team-high two saves.
It’s certainly too early to tell how far this Tennessee pitching staff can take them with conference play still two weeks away, but the Vols look primed to make some noise in the college baseball scene this year. If the pitching continues to keep this momentum going don’t be surprised to see the big orange making a run at not only the conference but also in the conversation to make a trip to Omaha.
The Vols travel to Pensacola, Florida, this weekend to take part in the Cox Diamond Invitational at the home of the Minnesota Twins Double-A affiliate, Blue Wahoos — where they will take on Louisiana-Monroe, North Florida, and Western Kentucky.