Photo by Saul Young, 2013 Knoxville News Sentinel // Buy this photo
An national baseball powerhouse like South Carolina will bring visiting fans to Lindsey Nelson Stadium this weekend.
One sizeable clot of them is supposed to be wearing orange. The guy they’re coming to cheer plays first base for Tennessee.
“They all said they’re gonna wear orange,’’ Scott Price said, not sounding 100 percent convinced.
That’s because the parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are all Gamecock fans and many of them are alums.
“Every single one of ’em,’’ said Price, who grew up in Leesville, S.C. “But hopefully they’ll be sitting in that section right up there, in orange.’’
The series begins Friday at 6 p.m. Games follow Saturday at 12:30 and Sunday at 2 p.m.
The 11th-ranked Gamecocks (23-6, 5-4 SEC) have played for the past three College World Series titles, winning in 2010 and 2011.
The Vols (13-14, 3-6 SEC) are trying to break a five-game losing streak that included an embarrassing 7-5 loss to Longwood on Tuesday.
Price, one of 21 newcomers to the UT roster, will be hunkered down at first base and — the Vols hope — swinging a potent bat.
He’s hitting .364 with 40 hits and 17 RBIs, all of which rank second on the team.
In short, he’s doing exactly what UT hoped when they recruited him as a walk-on from the junior-college ranks at USC-Sumter in his home state.
“He controls the bat well,
he works counts and he doesn’t strike out a lot,’’ said UT assistant coach Greg Bergeron. “If anything, we’d like him to hit with a little more power in that three hole.
“He’s probably exceeded our expectations so far.’’
Price was elated when he got scouted by the Vols last year. What UT didn’t know was that he was a closet Tennessee fan.
Since everyone in his family rooted for South Carolina — especially his dad Rodney, who punted for the Gamecocks in the 1980s — Price wanted to be different.
He randomly chose UT as his adopted team. The year was 1998. The Vols rewarded Price’s allegiance with a national football title.
“The next year I convinced my mom to go buy me a Peyton Manning jersey,’’ Price said. “A youth medium, I still have it in my room, actually.’’
What he doesn’t have in his room is his old USC-Sumter roommate. Pitcher Tyler Smith also chose UT but signed with the Texas Rangers last summer.
Price, however, couldn’t be happier at UT. He’s learning a new position, first base, and seeing the ball well at the plate. Well, a few more wins would work.
“We’ve lost games because of things we could control, not because of things we couldn’t control,’’ he said.
As one of three new junior-college signees in the lineup, Price feels he has to lead by example on a team with 18 freshmen.
“The juco guys are key,’’ said Bergeron. “We really chose our junior college guys wisely this year, knowing how many freshmen we were bringing in. We did a good job with who we brought in and they’re doing a good job for what we want out of them.’’
Notebook: UT coach Dave Serrano is flipping his pitching rotation, moving his best man, Zack Godley (2-2, 3.04 ERA) from Friday to Sunday, which has proved to be a problematic day thus far. Freshman Aaron Quillen (1-1, 6.34 ERA) starts tonight. Nick Williams goes Saturday, as usual. ... The first 500 ticketed fans receive R.A. Dickey throwback TV shirts.