The news found Nick Senzel the same week he was preparing for his final run at a state championship with the Farragut High School baseball team, and it shook his college pledge to its core.
Senzel, an infielder who had signed with the University of Georgia in November, learned that the university fired longtime coach David Perno on May 19.
Compartmentalizing his concerns was key.
“I told my dad that I wanted to focus on the state championship and the state tournament (May 21-24) and then we’ll worry about the college situation,” he said. “And that’s what we did.”
Nearly a month later, Senzel settled his future course. He received a release from his National Letter of Intent with Georgia and committed to play for Tennessee.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Senzel said he’ll report to campus July 8 and will compete for playing time at second base.
“When they fire a coach, that’s big for a program,” said Senzel. “Bringing in a new guy, you don’t really know what to expect.
“I took it in stride. I talked it over with my family about what I’m going to do and decided to ask for a release. I met with the new Georgia coach. He’s a great guy, Coach (Scott) Stricklin. I sat down and had lunch with him and he watched me play. He still wanted me to go there, but he said that if I wanted out I could get out.
“I made my decision in the next two days, and I knew from then on where I wanted to go — and that was to be a Volunteer.”
Senzel will be reunited with his best friend and fellow incoming freshman, Farragut right-hander Kyle Serrano, and also Farragut teammates Cameron Strickland (incoming freshman centerfielder) and A.J. Simcox (Tennessee shortstop).
Serrano, son of Tennessee coach Dave Serrano, was projected to be a first- or second-round draft pick earlier this month, but signability concerns prevented that from transpiring. Kyle Serrano opted to forgo professional baseball, as he was drafted in the 29th round by the Colorado Rockies.
His addition to the pitching staff along with Senzel’s arrival could pay off for Tennessee down the road, Senzel said.
Senzel hit a team-high .386 this past season for Farragut with four triples, five home runs, 14 doubles and 38 RBIs.
“When I got the opportunity to commit and come here and start in July, I was super excited,” said Senzel. “I’ve been playing with some of those guys (from Farragut) since I was young.
“To be able to play Division I, SEC baseball with those guys is a blessing. It’s great to be able to continue friendships and stay close with guys I’ve been playing with my whole life.
“I’m very excited to come in here and help make this program what it once was and rebuild it and contend this upcoming year.”