Dave Serrano: 'It feels great to be back out here'

Dave Serrano attentively sat on a bench tucked along the Tennessee bullpen.

With his arms neatly folded across his chest, the Vols' baseball coach scarcely broke eye contact with the pitchers doing drills directly in front of him.

Broad leg kicks were followed by the synchronized cracks of leather.

"It feels great to be back out here," he said. "Real, real nice to be back."

Indeed, baseball is back at Tennessee.

But familiar faces aren't.

In Serrano's second year, 18 freshmen clutter the 2013 roster, which will open the season Feb. 15 at UNLV.

"This is by far the biggest freshman class I've ever brought in — ever," Serrano said. "We're kind of starting all over again, really."

With just three seniors on the roster, position battles were abundant as the Vols opened practice last Saturday. Icy weather the day before forced UT to push back the start of spring practice.

Battle Behind the Plate: The jostling for the starting catcher job is between the trio of junior Ethan Bennett, sophomore Jason Manis and the switch-hitting freshman David Houser.

While Bennett, a former standout at Farragut High School, has the most experience by far with 71 career starts, the younger Houser and Manis have put together solid showings early this spring.

Houser hit a walk-off solo home run to win the Vols' first scrimmage. Serrano said he has been continually impressed by the freshman's ability to work deep into counts.

"I have no problem starting any of those three," Serrano said. "They all have major up-side to them."

Serrano described Manis as a "defense-first" catcher. The second-year coach said he likes the sophomore's consistency behind the plate and the stability he provides with his glove.

Moving Maddox: Will Maddox has found a new home.

After the sophomore started all but one game at second base last season, Maddox has emerged as Tennessee's starting third baseman.

Serrano said Maddox's transition has been close to seamless and had nothing but praises for the Gainesville, Ga., native.

"The best way I can describe Will … is that he's the personality of this team," Serrano said. "If there's one person you would want to describe your team as, it's him. His motor is always going."

Local Leader: Serrano said the one player he was most pleased with following the first few days of practice was Derek Lance.

The Bearden High School graduate impressed Serrano with his steady approach at the plate.

"He really has a nice stroke," Serrano said. "He stays on line with his swing and he's a tough out."

Lance, who spent his high school days playing infield, has moved to the outfield to facilitate a greater team need. Serrano said the transition has been "smooth" and he expects Lance to see playing time at a number of different positions in the outfield.

Key Rotation Returners: Outside of senior Zack Godley, UT's most experienced pitcher and likely Friday starter, returners Nick Williams and Blake Thomas will play a vital role in the pitching successes.

Thomas, a redshirt junior who sat last season with a knee injury, earned Serrano's praises with a handful of nice spring outings.

"He's had a big, big fall," Serrano said. "He has worked as hard as anyone."

Williams likely is to emerge as the closer. The Farragut graduate took over the closing role as a freshman and has made appearances in 45 contests.

With the abundance of youth, Serrano said the Vols will rely heavily on the Williams' leadership, experience and ability to work out of tight situations.

Fan Day: UT will play host to a preseason fan appreciation day on Feb. 9 from 9 a.m. until noon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Admission is free.

Fans can tour the stadium, meet the team and hit in the new indoor batting cage facility.

"When we had to make the decision to cancel our banquet due to weather concerns, it was important for us to show our fans how much we appreciate their support," Serrano said. "We hope that this event will let them know that they are a part of our team."

Serrano will provide a season preview and participate in a Q&A session 11-11:30 a.m. in the MVP Club Room. The team will practice at noon before holding a scrimmage at 1:30 p.m.

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Comments » 8

Sir_Spanky writes:

Maybe Tennessee will be able to win a few at this sport.

feathersax writes:

Looking forward to Vol baseball season. Already made plans to be in Hoover for SEC Tournament! CDS has a huge job in front of him but confident he'll get it done.

THEKIDWISCONSIN writes:

Well done Riley! I say the KNS just hires you to report on the BaseVOLS all season. An utter disgrace that the KNS only feels the baseball program is good enough for a "free lance contributor."

That being said (he steps off his soap box)...

Very much looking forward to the start of this season. I think the Raleigh element has been fully purged and UT Baseball takes a big step forward this season.

GO BaseVOLS!

DC82_Vol writes:

Is Serrano one of those guys that is going to build the team and then leave? Or is he in it for the long haul? So far, I like what he is doing. But I have little faith in TN's ability to keep good coaches - for whatever reason.

voloffaith writes:

Pitching is the key and we have one proven SEC caliber pitcher. So ,that being said, we will have to see how the youngins blend and grow...

DREG1621 writes:

in response to THEKIDWISCONSIN:

Well done Riley! I say the KNS just hires you to report on the BaseVOLS all season. An utter disgrace that the KNS only feels the baseball program is good enough for a "free lance contributor."

That being said (he steps off his soap box)...

Very much looking forward to the start of this season. I think the Raleigh element has been fully purged and UT Baseball takes a big step forward this season.

GO BaseVOLS!

I totally agree. I can't stand that KNS doesn't find baseball important enough to have a full tim guy covering it.

With Serrano we're on the uprise too! They need to hire that Riley fella full time or something. I've read some of his other stuff and its actually all really good.

I hope Godley has a solid year. GBO

volsfaninsc writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Pitching is the key and we have one proven SEC caliber pitcher. So ,that being said, we will have to see how the youngins blend and grow...

Evidently bezbol not been berry berry good to KNS. Baseball hasn't been a big deal at UT since Delmonico days...so I guess it has to earn,if you will, respect that equates to more print time...

THEKIDWISCONSIN writes:

From getting rid of Coach Fulmer for Kiffin & then Dooley...getting rid of Coach Delmonico for his buddy Raleigh to bringing in Pearl & the NCAA trouble...all UT failures lead back to Mike Hamilton. Period. End of sentence.

I'd like to think Coach Serrano is in it for the long haul. He was here with Coach Delmonico and only left to get a head coaching gig.

I obviously don't know him, but don't you just get the feeling he's excited about being here and wants to bring UT Baseball back?

Go BaseVOLS!

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