Texas A&M vs Tennessee, May 18, 2013
Rain began failing in the fifth inning at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Saturday, appropriately dampening the end of Tennessee’s dreary baseball season.
But those showers soon passed. Just like UT coach Dave Serrano hopes the Vols’ dreariness will come to pass.
Depite playing for nothing, Tennessee rallied Saturday. A four-run deficit against Texas A&M turned into a 7-5 victory to end the 2013 season.
Serrano called the team’s finale “a nice way to go out,” but buffered that characterization by framing reality.
UT missed the postseason, again, and finished one-half game from the SEC basement.
“Unacceptable,” he said.
Saturday’s win stemmed from a four-hit, three-run seventh inning. Following back-to-back singles by Jeff Moberg and Parker Wormsley and a sacrifice bunt by Zach Luther, freshman A.J. Simcox stepped up. Having been dealt first-pitch fastballs all series, the Farragut High School alum turned on one.
His two-run triple tied the game 5. Simcox was driven in one batter later on a single by junior Scott Price. An insurance run came on a wild pitch by A&M pitcher Corey Ray the next inning.
UT freshman Trevor Charpie recorded an incident-free, three-out save, securing the win for reliever Eric Martin (1-0), who reeled off four scoreless innings.
“Hopefully that’s a preview of next year,” Simcox said. “We can get the close games going in our favor next year. It was a character win for us today. We didn’t really have anything to motivate us because our season is over.”
Looking to string together three wins in as many days this weekend, the Vols instead dropped two of three to Texas A&M (30-25, 13-16 SEC). The two losses rubber-stamped the
season — Tennessee (22-30, 8-20) missed reaching the SEC tournament for the sixth straight year.
“Every one of us has to get better in every facet because this, like I said to the team, is the last senior class that I want to see leave without a postseason appearance,” said Serrano, who holds a 46-61 record in two years at UT.
Luckily that class only consists of only two players. The brevity of Saturday’s Senior Day ceremony speaks to how overwhelmingly young the Vols are. Pitcher Zack Godley, a workhorse who tossed an SEC-best 1081/3 innings this year, and Luther, who played sparingly, are the team’s lone graduates.
That’s the sun beam through the clouds.
Empirically, Serrano’s first and second seasons are nearly identical — an 8-22 SEC record followed by an 8-20 mark — but he says the narrative is different. Tennessee’s roster resembles a Western Civ class. Seventeen true freshmen played this season, more than any other NCAA Division I team.
“The difference is that we’re not rebuilding next year,” Serrano said. “We’re growing up.”
Simcox noted that he and his fellow freshmen wished more could have been done in Godley and Luther’s senior year.
That, Luther countered, should serve as an incentive not to repeat history.
“A lot of work needs to be done and it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said, adding, “The freshmen don’t want this to happen to them.”
Saturday’s win came in front of 1,971 fans. None of them want it to happen, either.
Serrano admitted it was nice to end on a high note, but no single triumph erases three months of troubles. He described another postseason-less campaign as, “The same empty feeling.”
Now focus shifts to the future forecast.
“We have some guys that are going to be eligible for the (Major League) draft,” Serrano said. “My hope is that they realize like I do that there’s a lot of unfinished business out there. I hope that everybody that has the chance to come back wants to come back and see this thing through.”
Brendan F. Quinn covers UT athletics. Follow him on Twitter at BFQuinn.