By Steve Williams
Perhaps we’ve been looking at the Tennessee baseball season the wrong way.
Instead of complaining about the Vols being in last place in the Southeastern Conference and potentially facing another season out of post-season tournament play under Dave Serrano, we should be thankful we’re having a regular season that’s keeping us on the edge of our seats as Tennessee battles for a berth in the SEC tournament.
This season may not yet be anything to brag about, but it certainly hasn’t been boring.With two SEC series remaining entering this past weekend, Tennessee was one of four teams still in contention for one of the final two spots in the conference tournament. Mississippi State, Alabama and Georgia also were still in the mix.
If Tennessee could dodge mathematical elimination at Arkansas, the Vols have a chance to earn a SEC tourney berth when Mississippi State and its cowbell-clanging fans roll into town this coming Thursday to begin the regular season series finale.
With six league games to go, Alabama was 8-16, State 8-16, Georgia 7-16 and Tennessee 7-17.
Best case scenario: Tennessee sweeps State, heads to Hoover on a roll and plays well enough in the SEC tourney to land a regional berth.
Worst case scenario: Vols are swept by Razorbacks and limp home out of post-season contention.
This could get really exciting!
This Tennessee season actually has been much more interesting than what several other SEC teams have been dealing with as they play out the string of regular season games.
Fans at Auburn (12-12), Kentucky (11-12), Ole Miss (11-13) and South Carolina (10-14) had to be yawning big time coming into last weekend. Their teams were pretty much out of contention for the regular season title but in the tourney. They basically had nothing at stake in their final six league games.
Regular season title contenders like Vanderbilt, LSU and Texas A&M were tied in the loss column coming down the stretch, but fans of those powerful programs really had their eyes on Omaha, not Hoover.
I remember when the regular season also used to be a ho-hum affair for Tennessee fans, but in another sport. In Pat Summitt’s heyday, the Lady Vols were so dominating, it was a foregone conclusion that UT would win the SEC, and its fans were just waiting on the NCAA Final Four.
It would have been easy for fans to have quit on this year’s Tennessee baseball team, but the competitiveness in Serrano’s ball club kept me interested.
I was particularly impressed with how the Vols bounced back after being swept at Kentucky. Tennessee returned home and took two of three from South Carolina and then held Texas A&M’s feet to the fire twice before suffering one-run losses to the nation’s No. 3 ranked team.
It also has been good to see local product Parker Wormsley break into the starting lineup and give the Vols a spark down the stretch. The former Webb School football and baseball standout, now a UT senior, will be playing his last games at Lindsey Nelson Stadium this weekend.
Parker’s play has certainly helped make this season easier to embrace.