Photo by Ian Cox/ Tennessee Athletics
By Gabriel Daniel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It was not a season that many pictured for Tennessee baseball. Inconsistent offense, defensive errors, and a dreadful away record plagued the Vols for much of the season a year after only losing nine games. But through all of the ups and downs, the Vols earned what any college baseball fan can ask of a team, a berth in the College World Series.
Many of the issues that Tennessee has faced throughout the season have seemed to be ironed out since the last series of the regular season. Since that critical series against South Carolina the Vols have gone 5-2 in games away from home.
The lack of issues that Vols have had in recent weeks has led many to say that Tennessee is on a hot streak, but outfielder Jared Dickey disagrees.
“ I wouldn’t really call it a hot streak. I would just kind of say we are playing good baseball right now and that’s what this team is capable of and like I said finally coming together as team its allowed us to comfortable with each other on and off the field,” said Dickey.
Whatever it’s called it can’t be denied that Tennessee has hit its stride as a team. The Vols have won seven of their last ten games with wins against some of the best teams in the country.
The improvement of this Tennessee team will be tested in a tough opening matchup against a familiar LSU team. Earlier in the season Tennessee faced off with the then top ranked Tigers team in Baton Rouge in a series the Vols lost two games to one.
One of the players that gave Tennessee the most trouble in their previous matchup with the Tigers was LSU’s dominant pitcher Paul Skenes. One of the best prospects in all of college baseball, Skenes struck out 12 Tennessee batters in the previous matchup.
“He was more than solid,” said head coach Tony Vitello. “ The series was not our best effort but the kids did keep kind of pushing forward in that series and it was early but it was one of the first signs of okay we’ve got a little bit of the fight that we want in our program.”
Skenes is not the only top prospect the Vols will face with the Tigers also having what many believe to be top prospect in Dylan Crews. Crews has been excellent all year with a .433 batting average and a .570 OBP.
It will be an up-hill battle for Tennessee against a loaded LSU team, but if there is one thing that can be said about this Vols teams it’s that they have handled adversity. And with a talented roster themselves they certainly have the ability to make it a tough matchup.
The game will take place on Saturday with first pitch set for 7:00 P.M. E.T. The game will be aired on ESPN.