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After capturing the SEC East, Tennessee baseball looks to keep rolling

Here come the Volunteers. As we approach the Southeastern Conference tournament, set to begin this week, fans in Knoxville have a serious contender on their hands. Tennessee (42-14, 20-10) posted its highest win total — postseason included, meaning the Vols have a shot at strengthening this stat — in 16 years, and their highest conference win total in over two decades.

The SEC Tournament, which will begin Tuesday in Hoover, Alabama, will see the Vols as a second seed after capturing the SEC East regular season title — their first since 1997. Ultimately, Tennessee’s penultimate SEC opponent, the Arkansas Razorbacks, took the overall honors of first place by beating out Tennessee by two games. The Vols, perhaps by virtue of playing one more game in-conference, beat out Vanderbilt for the top spot in the east division of the conference. The Commodores finished 19-10.

Still, all three of those clubs will have high hopes heading into this week’s matchups. Each of those three teams — as well as Mississippi State — will receive first round byes. Tennessee will get the victor between Alabama and South Carolina. Those teams will meet at 2:00 pm Tuesday afternoon, with the Vols’ matchup set for the next day at the same time.

Once the NCAA regionals kick off on June 4, a host of SEC clubs will have their eyes set on the College World Series. After watching this year’s SEC schedule, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that virtually any number of teams could be ticketed for Omaha in the imminent future, while the top four schools have legitimate championship aspirations.

For a downtrodden Tennessee fanbase, coming off a trainwreck year in football and a disappointing basketball slate, it’s refreshing to have news of a program who are competitors for the ultimate prize in their sport. While Tennessee will have tough-sledding no matter their circumstances — if for no other reason than having to compete once against with SEC schools as the tournament progresses — the team has had an incredible year, one which doesn’t seem to be ready to stop soon.

Tony Vitello’s nine are sure to be tough competition with aspirations of reaching the pinnacle of college baseball. In a sport where parity is much greater than others, like football or basketball, virtually anything could happen to anyone. Fortunately for Tennessee, any run this June won’t be considered a Cinderella story — this is a legit ballclub and the next month could yield massive results.

Tournament Scheduling

The first round of the tournament is single elimination, while the next three rounds are billed as double elimination, returning to single elimination for the semifinals.

The schedule for this week is as follows:

1st round (Tuesday, May 25)

10:30 am: 11 Kentucky vs. 6 Florida

2:00 pm: 10 Alabama vs. 7 South Carolina

5:30 pm: 9 LSU vs. 8 Georgia

9:00 pm: 12 Auburn vs. 5 Ole Miss

2nd round (Wednesday, May 26)

10:30 am: 3 Mississippi State vs. Kentucky/Florida

2:00 pm: 2 Tennessee vs. Alabama/South Carolina

5:30 pm: 1 Arkansas vs. LSU/Georgia

9:00 pm: 4 Vanderbilt vs. Auburn/Ole Miss

3rd round (Thursday, May 27)

All games TBD

4th round (Friday, May 28)

All games TBD

Semifinals (Saturday, May 29)

All games TBD

Championship (Sunday, May 30)

All games TBD

All of the tournament’s games can be found on the SEC Network, while the championship matchup will air on ESPN2. The games will take place at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.