It's Baseball Time in Tennessee: Vols in the College World Series Preview (vs. LSU, Wake Forest, Stanford; June 17-22)
Recently: Earlier this year I decided to revive this blog after mothballing it nearly 15 years ago. As a means of scheduling regular content, I decided to write game previews for basketball and weekend series in baseball. In the middle of April, Tennessee had won just 1 of 5 SEC series having been freshly swept by Arkansas and even dropping an ugly midweek game to Tennessee Tech. The Vols were 5-10 in the SEC at that point and staring down another potential sweep with then-#2 Vanderbilt coming to town--and I was wondering how I was going to muster enough interest in this team to continue writing weekly previews on this site.
Since that point, Tennessee completely inverted their season by sweeping Vandy and Mississippi State, and going on to win all but one of their remaining SEC series to run their record to a previously improbable 16-14 in the conference. The Vols are 20-6 overall since April 18. Other than a blip in the SEC tournament, Tennessee's postseason has been phenomenal, playing the college baseball game of the year against Clemson sandwiched between two dominant showings versus Charlotte, and closing out the Hattiesburg Super Regional with 13 unanswered runs in putting away Southern Miss.
This team, which seemed lost and without identity halfway through the season, became the team that wouldn’t die. And of course you can't spell wouldn't without UT.
Previously on Vols in Omaha: UT is making its second College World Series appearance in the last three years and sixth appearance overall. The Vols bowed out of their last CWS early, coming in as the 3 seed but losing to Virginia and Texas in 2021.
Tennessee played a series earlier this year against Saturday's opponent, LSU, dropping two of three in Baton Rouge. However, UT actually had a pretty good showing against LSU's ace (and arguably the best pitcher in America) Paul Skenes. The Vols only trailed by 1 when Skenes came out of the game. Tennessee later tied the game at 2 in the 8th inning before a UT fielding error broke the game open for the Tigers.
What to Watch: As a reward for their heroic turnaround this season, Tennessee gets put in the same bracket as #1 overall seed Wake Forest, #4 seed and (#3 RPI-ranked) LSU, and the highest rated PAC-12 team, #8 Stanford. I'm going to give you stats as I always do, but I will warn you: it's not real pretty. Remember, all the other teams in this half of the bracket are chalk. By seed this pool would be #1, 4, 5, and 8--it's Tennessee that is playing spoiler here and there's a reason the Vols did not earn a national seed. First up, batting stats: