The Tennessee Volunteers baseball season has been a study of contrasts. They got off to a program-best 12-0 start and overall won 17 of their first 19 games. The Volunteers once ranked as high as #14 in the college baseball top 25 poll.
Unfortunately, Tennessee has been unable to sustain their early success and for the most part the season has stalled. Starting with the Vols’ home loss to Auburn on March 21, the team has lost nine of 14 games. As a result, their overall record has plummeted to 23-11, with a dismal 6-9 SEC record.
The upcoming Hokie-Smokey Classic represents a season crossroads for the Volunteers. As great as the beginning of the season was, the nearly month-long slide has stalled Tennessee’s momentum. If they are to right the ship and begin preparations for the postseason, a good showing in the Hokie-Smokey Classic is vital.
At this point of the season, the Volunteers’ dismal SEC record should concern them the most. You are what your record says you are, and the Vols’ conference record sits below .500. Multiple losses to the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Georgia Bulldogs, and the Auburn Tigers have set Tennessee way back in the conference race.
This isn’t to suggest that the Volunteers cannot recover. Despite their poor stretch in the last month, Tennessee have a stellar 16-4 record in the confines of Lindsey Nelson Stadium. This is significant for the beleaguered squad, as they are slated to play 14 games in Knoxville over the course of the Hokie-Smokie Classic.
Even more significant is who the Vols will be hosting at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. On the docket at Rocky Top? SEC rivals Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida. There’s a real opportunity for Tennessee to make up ground in the conference. More importantly, they have a chance to recapture the momentum from earlier in the season.
Ultimately, that’s what the Hokie-Smokie Classic represents for Tennessee. Their season has been a tale of two halves and the Vols need to right the ship before the SEC tournament begins. The Classic gives them the opportunity to refine their pitching, hitting, and most importantly, fielding. Errors have cost the Vols some key games, including recently against Vanderbilt, where several errors spurred a Commodore comeback from a 3-0 deficit.
After having its opening game against Virginia Tech cancelled, the Volunteers open their Hokie-Smokey Classic campaign tonight against Western Carolina. The game is slated for 6:00 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. If Tennessee wants to put their recent skid behind them, tonight’s the night.
Edited by Will Lomas