Dave Serrano: Vols' destiny based on season's work, not first series
At least as a starting pitcher at Tennessee, Zack Godley technically already had one.
But after a season working exclusively out of the bullpen and now closing in on two years since his last meaningful start, the right-handed junior is going to get another shot to deliver the first pitch in the second game of a series against Northern Illinois, which begins on Friday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
And considering the open mind new coach Dave Serrano has kept as he evaluates his team heading into the season, Godley might be the perfect example for the benefits of wiping off the chalkboard and starting fresh.
"I'm really glad he's taking everything this way — he told us at the beginning of the fall, he doesn't care what's happened in the past and what's gone on with us in the past," Godley said during a media session on Tuesday. "Our evaluation to him is what we do on the field and then on the mound against our teammates until now, what we've done against our team and where we've established ourselves with him.
"I'm just glad I get the chance."
Godley had plenty of opportunities during his first season with the Vols, though all of his 28 appearances came in relief. He was effective in that role as a sophomore, splitting a pair of decisions, recording two saves and posting an earned run average of 3.38 during a difficult season that ultimately led to the hiring of Serrano when it ended.
But at least for one weekend, UT is planning to get Godley involved in the game a little earlier — just like he was in high school or when he was wrapping up his career at Spartanburg Methodist College with a seven-inning, postseason victory.
"It's a perfect answer to what I said from Day One, that we weren't going to judge guys," Serrano said. "We were going to base our decisions from what we learned from them. Until today — I had no idea he had never started at this university.
"That's a good thing, because I didn't have that in mind when I made that decision. That decision was based off what he had done over the fall and what's he done over the last three weeks when we practiced."
The pressure figures to be greater when the results start counting officially, and Serrano has made clear that no spots are guaranteed in the rotation at this point.
He'll open the campaign with Drew Steckenrider taking the mound on Friday and Nick Blount tabbed for Sunday, with Godley sandwiched in on Saturday. And even if there might still be some tinkering to be done with the pitching staff, those three guys will at least have the first shot to audition for a more permanent spot.
"I just look at it as a chance Coach is giving me to pitch," Godley said. "He's showing trust in me to do something that I've been trying to prove since I've been here.
"I'm glad he's giving me that chance, and I'm just hoping I can take it and run with it."
Poll position: Based on the facts, Serrano couldn't argue with the preseason case against his team.
But one day after the coaches around the league voted the Vols to finish last in the SEC, all Serrano was focused on was making sure they don't end the year right.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say I pay attention to it," Serrano said. "From a coaches' perspective from how they voted, they probably nailed it. We haven't done anything to warrant anything different. We've got some new players, a couple new players. Basically the same roster with some subtractions. Got new coaches.
"None of that warrants us moving up in the polls. We have to show it on the fields. Does it motivate us? Absolutely. But it motivates us as a coaching staff if we're voted first in the conference. And one day we will be down the line."
Looking Sharp: Chris Fritts was as curious to see how the fashion show would look on Tuesday as anybody else.
Even the junior outfielder was seeing a couple of the new uniform combinations for the first time along with the media, and he clearly came away impressed.
"I like them, I really like the white ones," Fritts said. "They're cool, it's kind of traditional, nothing really special but pretty classy."
Starting with the whites and including a gray road uniform, an orange top, a black batting jersey and a pinstripe kit, the Vols won't be short on options as they pick what to wear each game.
And while Fritts admitted to being partial to the white and pinstripe jerseys, he'll leave the decision making to the coaches.
"(Assistant coach Greg) Bergeron handles that, and he's not going to put anything on that doesn't make him look good," Fritts joked. "Let me tell you guys that, and the same goes for Coach Serrano. They're all about looking good, and I trust them.
"They've got the (California) swag going on, so I'm just like, 'Whatever you guys want to do.'"