Sonny Cortez set Tennessee’s single season home run record in 1998, breaking Todd Helton’s previous high of 20 in 1995. That record has stood strong, facing little threat for 24 years, withstanding just two Vols who have attempted to climb the mountain and usurp prior to the 2022 season.
In 2001, Chris Burke matched Helton’s once record total of 20 homers, but, even through 68 games on a team that reached the College World Series semifinals, he fell four short of matching what Cortez was able to do in 56.
Cody Hawn made his own bid for history in 2009 cranking 22 home runs, but because that Vols team finished 26-29, he wasn’t afforded the luxury that Burke was with the postseason. Given the 68 games Burke was, we’re talking about Cody Hawn’s record being in jeopardy.
However, we are not, and there’s perhaps never been a bid for 25 quite as enthralling or as within reach as what Trey Lipscomb is doing right now.
It’s been a long, grueling journey for Trey Lipscomb throughout his collegiate career. Tallying 83 plate appearances in his first three years at Tennessee, the now senior hit just two home runs prior to 2022. The potential was visibly there, but the chances weren’t. Playing behind Andre Lipcius and Jake Rucker will do that, but Lipscomb’s confidence never waned, trusting his process above all else.
With opportunity to leave and find greener pastures ever present in college sports with the transfer portal, Lipscomb chose to stay, even when it looked like it would be his opportunity his junior year until Liam Spence took over as the team’s everyday shortstop, pushing Rucker to third base and Lipscomb back to the bench, he never thought about it. He trusted himself and learned from those before him, and it’s safe to say his decision to stay has panned out incredibly well. Now it’s his job. It’s his hot corner.
If you want to trace where things “clicked” for Lipscomb, look no further than his performance in the Prospect League last year. Tallying 104 plate appearances in 21 games with the Johnstown Mill Rats, Lipscomb was a menace. Slashing .356/.414/.522/.936 with three home runs, Lipscomb showed off his next level bat to ball skill, and the ball absolutely jumps off his bat.
Lipscomb’s aggressiveness at the plate is fun to watch, and what’s most impressive about his approach is that even though he doesn’t walk a ton, he’s still hunting his pitch. That bat and that approach in the middle of the Vols lineup has made it college baseball’s best offense in 2022.
A perfect storm has created one of the great individual seasons in the history of Tennessee baseball. On Thursday against Georgia, Lipscomb became one of five Vols to ever hit 20 home runs in a single season. The chase to Sonny Cortez’s 24 has never felt so realistic, so reachable, and with the Vols sitting at 44-6 and number one among virtually every poll, Lipscomb won’t be undercut the way Cody Hawn was. Lipscomb has as good of a chance as anyone ever has since 1998.
Lipscomb is averaging a home run every 10.75 plate appearances. We could use the far more common at-bats per home runs for this one, but in order to project when he may reach 24 or pass it, every plate appearance matters to his chances. He gets around 4.3 plate appearances per game. This puts Lipscomb’s projection of reaching 24 home runs in the Vols’ 60th game, or during the SEC Tournament, and projections would put him breaking the record by game 63.
#TreyWatch is on until further notice. Whether he makes history in the home run department or not, what Trey Lipscomb has done in 2022 at Tennessee will go down as one of the greatest seasons in school history.