#40 Tennessee Baseball 2015 Preview

Tennessee Volunteers

Overall Rank: #40
Conference Rank: #11 SEC
#40 Tennessee Baseball 2015 Preview
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Tennessee continued to go through some growing pains as one of the younger teams in the country in 2014. The Volunteers did a find a way to win 31 games and continue to draw very solid crowds to Lindsay Nelson Stadium. However, going into year four under the direction of head coach Dave Serrano the pressure is starting to ramp up on him a bit to get Tennessee back into the NCAA Tournament this season.

2014: 31-23, 12-18
2014 Postseason: None
Coach: Dave Serrano

Field Players:
Christin Stewart is the tone setter for the Volunteers offensively. The Louisville Slugger first team preseason all-American outfielder can do pretty much everything offensively. Stewart led Tennessee in several offensive categories including hits, homeruns, and runs scored. Nick Senzel brings critical stability to the infield and drove in 39 runs last season and has very good speed. He stole 14 bases in 2014 for the Volunteers. Senzel was also outstanding defensively in his sophomore season and did not commit a single error all year long.Tennessee will also be looking for some early contributions from the likes of outfielder Chris Hall and catcher Benito Santiago as part of another top 15 recruiting class that will be taking the field in Knoxville this spring.

This should be the strength of the Volunteers this season as they have plenty of depth, especially with right-handed pitchers that will give Tennessee a chance to stay competitive in most games. Hunter Martin brings back the most experience as starting pitcher. He went 4-4 with a 3.25 earned run average in 12 starts. Kyle Serrano is another very highly regarded draft prospect heading into his junior season. Serrano is the son of head coach Dave Serrano and is the number 16 overall draft prospect according to Perfect Game and took a step forward in the eyes of scouts with his performance in the Alaska Baseball League.

Who to Watch:
The offense as a whole and their ability to replace the production of Will Maddox and Taylor Smart, who combined for seven homeruns and drove in 50 of the 306 runs scored by the Volunteers in 2014, will be key. With teams probably trying to pitch around Christin Stewart and forcing other players to beat them, it is going to be important for Tennessee to develop as much depth as possible within their lineup while still being able to play their small ball type of offensive attack. On the mound, it will be very interesting to see if incoming right-handed pitcher Will Neely can get himself into the starting rotation as either a number three Sunday starter or a mid-week starter this season.

Final Projection:
The schedule early on should set the Volunteers up for a strong start as the toughest series in non-conference play is on the road at UC Irvine. This matchup with the Anteaters will be a great test of the discipline that Tennessee has as they will have to play very sound baseball to win that series. The conference schedule is definitely going to test this team on the road right out of the gate with a trip to Gainesville to play Florida. After that Georgia visits Knoxville the next weekend on March 20-22 which will be a critical series as the next weekends will be on the road at College World Series participants Ole Miss and reigning national champion Vanderbilt. If they can survive this early conference gauntlet at .500 or a game or two below they should be able stay in the NCAA Tournament conversation all the way until Selection Sunday.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Christin Stewart, OF, 218
Hits: Christin Stewart, OF, 72
Home Runs: Christin Stewart, OF, 5
RBIs: Nick Senzel, IF, 39; Christin Stewart, OF, 39
Runs: Christin Stewart, OF, 45
Stolen Bases: Nick Senzel, IF, 14

Wins: Hunter Martin, P, 4
Innings Pitched: Hunter Martin, P, 63.2
Strikeouts: Hunter Martin, P, 43
Saves: Kyle Serrano, P, 1


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