Tory Lewis strolled down the clubhouse hallway with a giddy twang to her stride.
The Tennessee outfielder's pep was unmistakable.
Glancing at the many framed softball jerseys hanging from the walls, Lewis began to grin as she approached a box sitting outside the team's meeting room.
Reaching inside, she pulled out two pairs of softball pants — one white and one gray — still neatly wrapped in plastic.
"We're going to start out big," she said. "We're going all out this season. It's on."
And for the fifth-ranked Lady Vols, softball season is just that — on.
Tennessee begins the 2013 season today as it takes on Southern Utah at 6 p.m. to open the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah.
UT will face Idaho State at 1 p.m. and Utah State at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and will play South Dakota, BYU and Oklahoma State on Saturday and Sunday.
"We are so excited to get this thing going," Lewis said. "To finally play against someone other than ourselves is so exciting."
Ailing Outfield: While Lewis is eager to get the season underway, her 2013 debut will be delayed by at least two games.
Tennessee's starting center fielder suffered a concussion last week and will not be cleared to play until after UT's second contest against Idaho State.
Senior Melissa Brown, who made 50 starts at first base and just six in the outfield last season, will temporarily take over Lewis' duties in center.
While Lady Vols co-head coach Ralph Weekly acknowledged that Lewis' defensive range and speed will be missed, he said Brown enters the 2013 season in the best shape of her versatile career.
"She had a huge fall," Weekly said. "She is back in amazing shape and she will play in the outfield a lot of the time this season."
Senior Kat Dotson will start in right field and Whitney Hammond will operate left.
Melissa Davin, who started 45 games in left field last season, will start at first base.
Several Starters: Weekly tabbed his approach to the 2013 starting pitching rotation as "different."
While heralded senior Ivy Renfroe will start the first game against Southern Utah, Weekly plans to have four different pitchers start the first four games.
With returning 2012 All-American Ellen Renfroe likely starting the second game, Weekly will pitch sophomore Cheyanne Tarango and freshman Erin Gabriel in the following two contests.
Weekly said he plans to utilize the depth of his pitching staff well beyond the season's opening weekend, saying he would be fine with throwing four different pitchers in a single game if need be.
"Say we are facing Alabama, a great hitting team, all our pitchers have talent and very different styles," he said. "Whatever it takes."
Offense is Focus: Entering his 12th season with the Lady Vols, Weekly understands what it takes to win in the stout SEC.
Weekly said success, simply, boils down to two factors — pitching and offense.
The focus this season will be the latter.
With UT returning all of its starting infield that led the nation in fielding percentage (.982) last season, Weekly said his focus for 2013 will be to get his best nine hitters into the lineup. Defense will take a back seat to offense, he said.
"You can play the best defense in the nation and still not come close to winning it all," Weekly said.
National Coverage: Tennessee will receive national television coverage for seven of its regular season games.
UT's March 16 game at No. 14 Florida on ESPNU will be the first softball game of the year covered by ESPN.
The Lady Vols' other televised games are: March 17 at Florida on FSTN, March 23 vs. No. 17 Texas A&M on ESPNU, April 7 at No. 8 Georgia on FSTN, April 13 against Auburn on CSS, April 26 against Arkansas on FSTN, and May 4 at No. 7 Missouri on ESPN.
Riley Blevins is a freelance contributor.