John Adams: UT baseball takes 'baby step,' still needs leaps of improvement

John Adams
Zach Luther bats for Tennessee against Texas A&M on Saturday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Matthew Osborne/Tennessee Athletics

Photo by Matthew R. Osborne/Tennessee Ath, University of Tennessee Athletics

Zach Luther bats for Tennessee against Texas A&M on Saturday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Matthew Osborne/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee weathered intermittent rain and overcame a four-run deficit to beat Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The 7-5 victory constituted a pleasant diversion for a team that so often has either self-destructed or been overwhelmed by its SEC competition. The Vols were downright resourceful in rallying past Texas A&M and providing a merciful ending to another losing season.

But forgive UT coach Dave Serrano for not executing celebratory cartwheels. One conference victory hardly registers when weighed against all the wrongs of a 22-30 season (8-20 in the SEC) in which UT again failed to meet the minimal standards required for the postseason conference tournament.

“This is almost sickening to me to know this program hasn’t been to (the SEC tournament) since 2007,” Serrano said.

And it’s almost stunning when you consider the up-and-down nature of college baseball.

The extreme swings between success and failure were apparent during the last half of the Rod Delmonico era (1990-2007). His 1999 and 2000 Vols combined to lose 38 SEC games, but his next team made the College World Series.

In 2005, the Vols again qualified for the CWS. Two years later, after back-to-back losing conference records, Delmonico was fired.

Former UT athletic director Mike Hamilton sought more consistency when he made the move. He got it.

Tennessee has had one winning season in the last six years, four under former coach Todd Raleigh and two under Serrano. In none of those seasons did it finish higher than fifth in the SEC East.

Raleigh’s resume can’t match that of Serrano, who had winning teams at both Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine before taking the job at Tennessee, where he was once an assistant under Delmonico. But Serrano’s UT teams often haven’t looked much different from Raleigh’s when you put them on the field against another SEC opponent.

The Vols are 16-42 in two SEC seasons under Serrano. They were 19-41 in Raleigh’s last two seasons, and 13-41 under Mark Connor in 1988-89. Connor was fired after his second Tennessee team lost 23 of 27 SEC games.

In defense of Serrano, Raleigh didn’t leave a wealth of talent behind. But there was scant improvement between Serrano’s first and second teams. And how much improvement did you see from start to finish for this young team, which lost 10 of its last 13 SEC games?

Serrano doesn’t discourage or deflect criticism. He leads the way, in fact.

“The first person I’m going to look at is myself,” he said. “I didn’t come here for the job. I came here to win.”

Then, he cites all the reasons this should be a winning program.

“We have beautiful facilities,” he said. “We have a beautiful field to play on. Everything we have is at the championship level except for the play of the program.”

After measuring the program’s progress in “baby steps” earlier this season, he has something else in mind.

“This was the year of baby steps, and we didn’t reach our goal,” Serrano said. “The baby steps are gone.”

Starting pitcher Zack Godley is the only senior of note. So experience will be in UT’s favor next season.

But despite all the returning experience, you can’t ignore the program’s shortcomings. Tennessee was a distant last in the conference in pitching, and three different SEC players had as many or more home runs as the 13 hit by all the Vols combined.

Given all the ground to be made up, Serrano’s choice of words is appropriate: “We’ve got to take leaps now.”

And given the program’s recent history, it will take a leap of faith to believe they can do it.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 12

WaltGoVoIs writes:

Well, Adams. Since you had a prominent role in wrecking the football program, you must surely know that any revival of UT Baseball must follow the revival of the team that plays on Shields-Watkins Field.

Not that you care.

Walt

UT '81

arkyvol writes:

would to god that the name of mike hamilton never again be mentioned in connection with tennessee athletics other than to explain the toxic waste site it became during his tenure.

NashvillePreds writes:

Nice parting shot JA.
Kind of ignoring the fact Serrano has had success everywhere else he has been.
JA, I know you are paid for your opinion, but you still don't matter.

SevenT writes:

Rod Delmonico fired and UT Baseball stinks

Phillip Fulmer fired and UT Football stinks

Are we seeing the pattern here?

voloffaith writes:

in response to SevenT:

Rod Delmonico fired and UT Baseball stinks

Phillip Fulmer fired and UT Football stinks

Are we seeing the pattern here?

Many might say you brought a stench to this article.........kantatsy knows purrfectly well that his paws are not far from the litter box keeping all tidy....On topic baseball will get better as long as more of his recruits make campus and minimally to the MLB.

JimmyJoe writes:

Baby step in which direction John?

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to SevenT:

Rod Delmonico fired and UT Baseball stinks

Phillip Fulmer fired and UT Football stinks

Are we seeing the pattern here?

Witch Doctor take a guess...Kentucky has some of the worst "pretend" fans of all-time? lol
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor asked to repost this site because of the fakes starting to emerge(? really people) Hank Muddy on Twitter you are not me..go away loser.
https://www.facebook.com/papa.shango....
Hit me!
http://witchdoctoring.blogspot.com/

Bones never lie.

cphil writes:

The baseball Vols have become the Chicago Cubs of the SEC.

bigdisbig writes:

On Dave Serrano's behalf, Rome wasn't built in a day. This team is very young and inexperienced. It will take some good recruiting, maturing and leadership among the team to become winners. I have been very frustrated at the seemingly lack of desire to win from this team. It CAN be turned around but it WILL take time.

jmaples54 writes:

in response to WaltGoVoIs:

Well, Adams. Since you had a prominent role in wrecking the football program, you must surely know that any revival of UT Baseball must follow the revival of the team that plays on Shields-Watkins Field.

Not that you care.

Walt

UT '81

"prominent role in wrecking the football program"
the powers that be could not care less what one newspaper columnist says or thinks.

"you must surely know that any revival of UT baseball must follow the revival of the team that plays on Shields-Watkins field."
this makes no sense at all.

you are making a poor case for your intelligence, my friend.

us43137415#376444 writes:

in response to bigdisbig:

On Dave Serrano's behalf, Rome wasn't built in a day. This team is very young and inexperienced. It will take some good recruiting, maturing and leadership among the team to become winners. I have been very frustrated at the seemingly lack of desire to win from this team. It CAN be turned around but it WILL take time.

You're right.

Rome was not built in a day.

Rome was built in a lifetime.

And that's how long we have to wait until Tennessee baseball gets back up to where it was.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features