UT starting pitcher Zack Godley did not even think about pitching until his junior year of high school. He had never pitched before in his life.

His coach at Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School in Bamberg, S.C., told Godley, who played outfield and catcher at the time, that he needed to pitch because he was one of the hardest throwers on the team.

Before he took the mound, did Godley consider himself a catcher or an outfielder?

“Actually I always thought of myself as a football player,” Godley said. “I never really thought of playing baseball in college. But whenever I got the opportunity to play in junior college and pitch, I figured I’d take it and do what I could with it.”

Godley described the town he grew up in — Bamberg, S.C. — in distances. It is 15 to 20 minutes away from the closest McDonald’s. The closest Walmart is 30 to 45 minutes away.

“It’s not like the suburbs that are out here where you have houses so close together that you can reach out and touch one from another window,” he said. “Out there, it was just our family.”

The family he grew up with in Bamberg included his father, mother, two older brothers and his mother’s side of the family — everyone from grandparents to aunts to cousins.

“My whole family grew up on one street, right there together,” he said. “We all lived right there together, played ball together all the time.”

His father always traveled, doing construction work, while his mother went to her job at an import-and-export facility in town. Godley’s two brothers taught him about sports.

“My (oldest) brother grew up playing soccer, and I hated soccer,” Godley said. “I played it when I was little, but I grew out of it. I always wanted to play football. I always liked hitting people, and I couldn’t stand kicking the ball.”
    
Godley’s oldest brother played soccer and wrestled, while his middle brother played baseball.
    
“When I was little, I would bet the glove was bigger than I was,” Godley said. “And they would throw the ball up, and if I missed it, they’d beat me up and then put the glove back on my hand and see if I could catch it again.”
    
Godley excelled as a quarterback and linebacker in high school. But rather than accept a football offer from a Division-II school, Godley opted to play baseball at junior college and hold out for a baseball offer from a Division I school. This path led him to joining UT for his sophomore season in 2011 and becoming the best statistical pitcher for the 2012 Vols.
    
Through his first four starts of this season, Godley is 3-0 with a 1.44 earned-run average, giving up four runs on 17 hits in 25 innings pitched.
   
Making his 2012 start even more remarkable, Godley was not a starter last year. As a reliever, he went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 28 relief appearances.
    
For Godley, the difference between this year and last year is deeper than the difference between starting and relieving. His entire mindset toward pitching has changed.
    
“Up to this year, I just have been trying to throw the ball as hard as I possibly could and just trying to get guys to miss it,” he said. “And this year with coach Serrano, he’s changed everything that I do as far as approaching a hitter because now all I do is try to get them to get themselves out. I throw the ball for a strike and let them get themselves out.”
    
Instead of relying on his fastball like last year, Godley added a changeup to his repertoire, a pitch he says he did not throw in 2011.
    
While Godley throws two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a slider and a curveball, he calls the changeup his most effective pitch and his favorite.
    
“I’ve been sticking it in first-pitch strikes and getting early swings on it and getting ground balls to Ozzie (UT shortstop Zach Osborne) and (UT second baseman) Will (Maddox),” he said.
    
UT catcher Ethan Bennett calls Godley one of the most fun pitchers he has caught lately.
    
“I know what he’s going to do, and I know how he’s going to use his pitch effectively to get the guys out,” Bennett said.
    
Godley prefers starting to relieving because he gets to prepare to take the mound and anticipate it.
    
“I get to know that I get the ball,” Godley said. “And I don’t have to wait throughout the game, wait on my name to be called.”
    
His preparation before a start is as scheduled as a Monday-Wednesday-Friday class.
    
On Mondays, Godley throws an “L-U,” what Serrano calls a “loosen-up.”
    
“It’s pretty much like a bullpen, but it’s just a lighter version,” Godley said. “It’s only 10, 12 pitches, whereas a bullpen’s probably 20 to 30.”
    
On Wednesdays, Godley throws a bullpen session, and on Fridays, he pitches.
   
 Godley started in UT’s upset of then-No. 16 Texas on March 3 at Minute Maid Park in Houston. He lasted seven innings, giving up three earned runs on eight hits, and it only took him 68 pitches to do so. His pitch count is reflected in the brevity of the game. It lasted just two hours and 37 minutes.
    
He relished the opportunity to pitch at the home of the Houston Astros.
    
“It’s a big-league atmosphere,” he said. “You’re playing on a big-league field. It doesn’t compare. Playing on the college field is amazing, but getting to play on a major league ballpark is just something else.”
   
His best start yet came on Friday against Louisiana-Monroe. He tossed eight innings of work, giving up no runs on three hits. He struck out 10 batters and walked only two. That game lasted an even shorter amount of time: two hours, 17 minutes.
    
The former outfielder and catcher has shown his ability to go deep into games. With each successive start, Godley has lasted longer: four innings on Feb. 18, six innings on Feb. 25, seven innings on March 3 and eight innings on Friday. Even still, Godley does not think about that.
    
“All I try to do is come in here (the dugout) and sit down and listen to what coach has got to say to me and then go out on the mound and throw,” he said. “Whenever he gets ready for someone else to go in, he’ll tell me.”