It’s just about time to turn our attention to the baseball diamond, where yet another top-ranked Tennessee team is set to hit the field. Tony Vitello’s squad is the latest Tennessee team to crack the top five of the polls, joining both football and basketball.
The Volunteers will begin the season as a consensus top five team, appearing at No. 2 in most publications. LSU is the consensus No. 1 team as we start the season.
Here’s where Tennessee ranked in all of the preseason polls.
D1Baseball.com – No. 2
USA Today – No. 2 (Six First-Place Votes)
Baseball America – No. 2
NCBWA – No. 2
Perfect Game - No. 2
Collegiate Baseball News - No. 5
It’s a little bit of good news bad news for Vitello this offseason. His entire starting pitching rotation, which was simply brilliant last season, returns for another year. However, his entire lineup from last season is gone. Tennessee will replace eight in the field, but they worked the portal nicely and have a handful of guys with experience ready to become starters.
Kansas transfer Maui Ahuna was a massive get for Vitello, and he will take over at shortstop. AAC player of the year Griffin Merritt comes over from Cincinnati, while former Alabama third baseman Zane Denton brings a ton of experience. Guys like Blake Burke, Jared Dickey, Christian Moore and Christian Scott all return and will help ease a big offensive transition.
Having Chase Dollander, Drew Beam and Chase Burns return to the rotation is why the Volunteers are ranked so high to start the year, though. Tennessee’s team ERA of 2.51 led the nation a year ago.
Tennessee spent 12 weeks ranked No. 1 last season, but ultimately fell short of the College World Series. Vitello and company will be looking to return to Omaha this year, after making an appearance back in 2021.
Tennessee’s 2023 season opens on February 17th against Arizona at the MLB Desert Invitational. The Volunteers will take on Alabama A&M in their home opener on February 21st.