For as little as what was expected of the Vols this season they are off to a hot start.
Tennessee (5-0) is in the midst of its best start since 2003 and head coach Dave Serrano is the only coach in school history to start his career with five straight wins, the most recent a 9-2 win over Seton Hall Friday afternoon.
"I want them to be proud of what we have done getting to 5-0 but don't be satisfied," Serrano said. "We're overcoming ourselves, we're showing some toughness as a team that when things get tough and we're not on top of it we are finding a way to get it done."
A two-run fourth inning proved to be enough to put the Vols up for good over Seton Hall (2-3), but Tennessee did not take their foot off the gas.
The Vols took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning on the strength of a Wes Walker's bases loaded single through the right side of the infield, but that is all the damage Tennessee could inflict on the Pirates.
In the top of the third, Seton Hall responded with a similar inning and scoring their first run of the contest by a soft grounder through the right side. That is the only run Tennessee would surrender until late in the ball game.
Seton Hall starter Jon Prosinski looked good on the mound, but the Volunteers were able to do just enough damage to get players on base, then small ball brought the runs home.
"That was probably the most quality pitching we have seen and we were able to get nine runs and 15 hits. That's a good sign for this team," Serrano said.
"He was working away a lot so we talked about standing up on the plate to try and take away his curve ball," Zach Luther said. I bought into coach Serrano telling me to be more of a contact pitcher instead of a power pitcher and just throwing strikes. - Freshman pitcher Robbie Kidd
Drew Steckenrider started the fourth inning off with a double down the left field line and was followed by a Chris Pierce single to give the Vols runners on the corners. Chris Fritts then laid down a sac bunt that Prosinki threw by catcher Dillon Hamlin allowing Steckenrider to score.
Steckenrider, the Vols starting pitcher, had an effective day on the mound also, though it was cut short by a high pitch count.
"He struggled and made pitches when he had to and when I took him out he didn't take it to his offense," Serrano said. "He stayed with himself and overcame it and that is the thing I am really starting to like."
Steckenrider threw three innings of one run ball and surrendered three hits while collecting four strikeouts.
Robbie Kidd replaced Steckenrider on the mound and was once again effective on a Friday night for Tennessee while recording his first career win as a Vol. The freshman was able to keep Seton Hall off the scoreboard and more importantly the base paths for the majority of his outing.
Kidd went his fourteen batters without surrendering a hit to the Pirates and was pulled from the game in the eighth inning after giving up his first run of the game.
"I bought into coach Serrano telling me to be more of a contact pitcher instead of a power pitcher and just throwing strikes," Kidd said. "In high school I was always a strikeout pitcher but I believe it now. You can throw strikes and get the outs."
Tennessee plated two more in the fifth after a Fritts infield single and a Carter single up the middle. The Vols were still in a position to score but Pierce was gunned down by the Seton Hall second baseman from just outside the infield dirt.
The Vols new approach has been able to generate some opportunities, but Tennessee also ran into six outs on the evening.
"That's our offense right there. Most of the time we windup successful but sometimes you get out, but we're always going to push the envelope against any team we play," Luther said.
After scoring one run in each the sixth and seventh, Seton Hall was able to get some offense generated and scored a run, cutting the UT lead to 6-2.
But, Tennessee squashed any thoughts of a comeback in the ninth by scoring two in the bottom of the eighth to push the lead to 9-2.
"We're still trying to find our identity in the bullpen and with a 7-2 lead we don't know if we are secure," Serrano said. "We don't want to have to go to Nick Williams on a Friday night with a 7-2 lead so if we get that eighth, ninth run we don't have to go to him."
The Vols and Pirates will square off again Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET and again Sunday at noon.