As the Tennessee baseball team looks to begin its regular season Friday, there’s uncertainty about where the Vols will be at the end of the season.
But for second year head coach Dave Serrano, the goal is clear.
“Sometimes you need to change the culture of a program, the identity of a program, the expectations of a program, and no matter where I’ve been the expectations have always been to play in the College World Series,” said Serrano.
“Nobody’s told us we can’t be any good, nobody’s told me that yet, so there’s no reason why we can’t believe we can be as good as possible,” he continued.
Serrano’s first season with Tennessee was a disappointing one, with the Vols finishing on a 24-31 record overall and 8-22 in the SEC, which put them last in the SEC East.
The 2013 Vols will certainly have a learning curve this year as the roster will have 18 true freshmen, and RHP Zach Godley and infielder Zach Luther are the team’s lone seniors.
“It makes me feel real old, especially because of the fact that I’m older than anyone else on the team,” Godley said. “It definitely does make me feel older. I like it though. I like being one of the older guys on the team. I like trying to be one of the leaders. I’m excited.”
Sophomore infielder Will Maddox returns after earning a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2012. Maddox led the team in batting average at .297, hits (63), runs scored (32), total bases (79), stolen bases (14), at-bats (212) and on-base percentage (.374), so the Vols will need his production this season.
Tennessee begins its season Friday with a trip to Las Vegas, where they will play a four-game series against UNLV.
Much like the Vols, the Rebels’ biggest challenge coming into this season is youth. The team will have 16 underclassmen as compared to only 13 upperclassmen. The Rebels will rely on pitcher Erick Fedde at the top of the rotation, who was 6-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 2012. UNLV also returns their leading hitter in senior Brandon Bayardi, who hit .361 with 53 RBIs and seven home runs in 2012.
Serrano knew when he took over this team that it was going to be a challenge and success wouldn’t happen overnight, but he’s optimistic about the future.
“You always want to have success right out of the gate, but that’s unrealistic. We’re building something and I’m excited about that,” Serrano said.