Dave Serrano: Sweep of N. Illinois 'a big step' for Vols

The temptation certainly was there.

One after another, Tennessee starters worked through their designated innings without much trouble while looking capable of adding to their workloads.

But Dave Serrano had a script for the opening weekend of the baseball season. And while the way the Vols were pitching at least made him consider a rewrite or two, ultimately he stuck with the plan while coming away with a sweep of a doubleheader and the series against Northern Illinois on Saturday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"This was a big step," said Serrano, whose team won 10-5 and 7-2 Saturday. "It answered some questions.

"I saw some really good things, I saw some things that we're going to have to clean up a little bit. I got to see where our shortcomings are, but I said this all along, I'm really excited about what I see materializing with this young pitching staff."

The first-year coach choreographed the set with the Huskies (0-3) to get an evaluation on a handful of his young hurlers without pushing any of them too far early in the season, starting with a cap on four innings for his starters.

But with Drew Steckenrider breezing through his outing on Friday night, and Zack Godley and Nick Blount following that up with four scoreless innings apiece to keep the earned run average at zero for the UT starters, Serrano admitted having some thoughts about letting them work a little more.

He even gave in with Carter Watson impressing in a four-inning stint in relief of Blount in the finla game to close the weekend, but with the Vols (3-0) suppling plenty of offensive support and turning in a few more sparkling defensive plays as well, Serrano was able to blend his molding of the pitching staff with the desire just to win the game.

"I'm pretty sure he's definitely set on the way he's going," Godley said after holding the Huskies down to open the day. "You could tell on Friday night when Steckenrider threw, because he was going great through the fourth inning and came out like that.

"Coach has said he's going to get us into working the best we can do throughout the whole season. It's a marathon, not a sprint."

The Vols are clearly building for the long haul, though they certainly didn't mind getting off to such a fast start to begin the race.

Godley needed just 40 pitches to get through his four innings, striking out three and while allowing three hits without a walk.

Nick Williams earned the save and worked even more economically, needing just 19 pitches to retire all eight batters he faced after the game tightened up in the seventh.

And while Blount and Watson need to strain a little harder to get their results, the Vols also weren't complaining about what they produced while teaming up for eight innings of one-run ball.

"I mean, in a way I guess you know how many you're going to go, but I'm going out there focused on one pitch at a time," Blount said. "That's really what I'm trying to do.

"Coach likes to stick to his plans, which is fine. I think that I could have thrown more, but with what he wants me to do right now, that was just fine with me."

The outcome worked out all right for all three games as well.

And while eventually the Vols are going to need to stretch their starters out deeper into games, for now they're in no hurry.

"I've been part of a lot worse, to be honest with you," Serrano joked. "So I was proud of how they handled it.

"I was happy; we got some young guys some work, there's still some more guys to go, but I really liked how we pitched this weekend."

It was almost good enough to make him change a few plans.

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Comments » 12

BleednUrnge81 writes:

How come no one ever posts about baseball. We have the coach that made cal state fullerton a beast. Google it or look it up on youtube, you'll see. We have potentially another team to get excited about. We could be a rising power in the SEC. Let's get behind this team, and see what happens. At least do it to fill in the void b4 football season. GO VOLS!!!!!!!!!

mountainbrook writes:

A good way to start.

orangeblood09 writes:

i took my kids to the doubleheader.that is not the same team we saw last year . those kids played hard!looked like they were having fun,and played fundamentally sound baseball.thank you coach .no matter how the season ends it will be a team that is fun to watch . and that i want my kids to watch.

Volunteer_Pride1794 writes:

I watched all three games this weekend and from what I saw, and I know that NIU hadn't had an outdoor practice before coming down here, this team has some dominant aspects to it. They can almost score runs at will, and the more mature the pitching staff gets, they'll be even more dangerous for the opposing dugout. If the Diamond Vols continue to work hard each day at getting better as a team, we may not have to wait too long to see an upper SEC caliber team in Knoxville. Definitely can't see us finishing last in the SEC this year. Go Vols!!

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

This Steckenrider dude is MLB bound. The team looked REALLY good today. Funny what good ole' fashion FUNDAMENTALS will do for a baseball team. Sound smart defense, nice smart approach at the plate, and good pitching. Whoever calls the pitches (I'm assuming Serrano), kept the hitters off balance. This team has potential to do some things. The thing that gets me excited is how many really good young players we have. Not only is this team gonna surprise some folks this yr, the core of the team has a chance to be together for a couple of yrs. Again...any night Steckenrider is on the mound, folks might wanna go and watch, dude is good. Not only on the mound, but he's a heck of a 1st baseman and a VICIOUS hitter.

brewcrew writes:

Congrats to Coach Serrano and the players. Go Big Orange!!

voloffaith writes:

VP_1974 had a key point that we had a sweep ,but NIU had not had an outside practice til they got to K-town. So temper our enthusiam a little til we play another southern team who had not been handicapped for outside time by their everyday weather...happpy...just sayin' y'all

THEKIDWISCONSIN writes:

I agree, you cannot say enough times how there is a night & day difference between this team under Serrano and Raleigh. It's amazing.

True, only one series and only NIU. But a very encouraging start.

Not being in the area it's awesome this year to see KNS send a first rate reporter like Austin out there versus years past where we were lucky to get a "contributor" cover one of the games in a series.

And being able to watch the games live on UTsports.com and get the post game interviews...fantastic!

Go BaseVOLS!

jumby92 writes:

This is a great first outing for the 2012 edition. Yes, NIU is not exactly tough competition but winning is a an important validation for the new coaching staff and mentally, it helps build buy-in with the players. We can't expect a CWS trip the first year out, but I think we can see there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Also, I am happy to see that all of the negative imbeciles are not posting on baseball articles. Hopefully they will stay away.

THEKIDWISCONSIN writes:

Agreed jumby92...lets leave Omaha on the back burner for now...i'll take a trip to Hoover :)

I thin the Negatives are all to busy bashing the hoops team :)

LJS1984 writes:

in response to BleednUrnge81:

How come no one ever posts about baseball. We have the coach that made cal state fullerton a beast. Google it or look it up on youtube, you'll see. We have potentially another team to get excited about. We could be a rising power in the SEC. Let's get behind this team, and see what happens. At least do it to fill in the void b4 football season. GO VOLS!!!!!!!!!

Coach Serrano should be a great coach, but Cal State Fullerton was a beast long before Coach Serrano got there. Coach Serrano just kept the train rolling down the tracks out there....

spencer1989#206886 writes:

If I recall correctly from last year, we hardly (if at all) swept any series from anyone (and appeared we couldn't do so even if it were a high school team playing us). What a difference we see in the team now and in the great coach that I think we have now. I really believe we are seeing the program turning around in its early stages and having a bright future.

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