Dave Serrano says Vols reached 'defining moment' with series victory over Vanderbilt

Vols take 2 of 3 in crucial series against Vandy

Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee’s Kyle Serrano pitches against Vanderbilt on Sunday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Photo by Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Ath, University of Tennessee Athletics

Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Athletics Tennessee’s Kyle Serrano pitches against Vanderbilt on Sunday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

After two full seasons at Tennessee and 30 more games in 2014 — including the past two weekends of sometimes stomach-churning drama against the nation’s top baseball teams — coach Dave Serrano thinks he’s finally seen it.

The Vols shut out No. 4 Vanderbilt 7-0 on Sunday, taking two of three during the weekend and winning a series against a top-five team for the first time since 2009.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for a defining moment,” Serrano said. “I think beating Vanderbilt here at home is a defining moment.”

The No. 25 Vols (21-9, 5-7 SEC) were swept a week ago at South Carolina, increasing the importance of this weekend’s home series against the Commodores.

Two late-inning losses doomed the Vols at Carolina, and UT lost the opener to Vandy on Friday. But the Vols rallied with a walk-off hit to win a four-hour marathon on Saturday, then dispatched the Commodores (26-7, 6-6) with surprisingly little drama on Sunday.

The series win was the first over Vanderbilt since 2010 and the first nine-inning shutout victory against them since March 3, 1985.

The announced crowd of 3,306 was the highest-attended game since 2012.

The good vibes at Lindsey Nelson Stadium were tough to ignore.

“This was a season-changer,” said Christin Stewart, who had two hits and three RBIs on Sunday.

Freshman starter Kyle Serrano, the coach’s son, pitched 5 1/3 innings of the Vols’ shutout, allowing just two hits. He overcame early control trouble to get the win.

Relievers Andy Cox and Andrew Lee combined for 3 2/3 innings of hitless ball to finish the game.

The Vols won’t return home until a series against Alabama on April 18. In the meantime, they have a trip to Tennessee Tech on Tuesday and a series at Georgia this weekend. The Hokie-Smokey Classic against Virginia Tech is April 15 at Salem, Va.

“I’m so proud of them to beat one of the big boys in the SEC, but it won’t mean anything if we go out next week and don’t compete to win a series or sweep a series,” Serrano said.

Serrano has frequently praised the character of his clubhouse, but he also wants to see his young team develop a killer instinct.

That means seizing momentum now rather than sliding back into old habits.

“We have some great guys in this program, guys that I’m really proud to call our team,” he said. “We have too nice of kids sometimes. Nice guys finish last. We have to get gritty, get dirty, fight, claw and do whatever it takes to not let an opponent come in and have fun in our ballpark.”

This weekend, the Vols did just that, but the absurdly congested SEC standings leave little room for error. Twelve of the league’s 14 teams are separated by no more than two games. For all its progress, Tennessee sits in a three-way tie for 11th place. The top 12 teams earn a trip to the SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala.

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee athletics. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 6

RoadTrip writes:

This is how it's done folks. You are watching a true professional at work. Thanks for believing in and coming back to Rocky Top, CDS. The guys are starting to believe in themselves like Vol teams should.

81volguy writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

This is how it's done folks. You are watching a true professional at work. Thanks for believing in and coming back to Rocky Top, CDS. The guys are starting to believe in themselves like Vol teams should.

Pretty sure you're a coach of the team, not a fan. Because this team has performed WAY below the way it should. Just watch the rest of the season, and we'll see who's right.

MooseandSquirrelVol writes:

in response to 81volguy:

Pretty sure you're a coach of the team, not a fan. Because this team has performed WAY below the way it should. Just watch the rest of the season, and we'll see who's right.

June 5, 2007.
'nough said.

underthehill writes:

My son is heavily involved in a local school baseball program and helps coach a team my 12 year old grandson plays on ..several of the parents and players go often to see the Vols..they say that UT does a great job promoting these games for families.. it is not too expensive...great entertainment and great learning experience for young players...

GreerVol22 writes:

weird observation but I hope when we switch to Nike we can clean up these God awful 80's Astros style uni's....+ the oranges don't even match...hat and jersey).....Looks like thirty shades of Wal-Mart orange

OrangePride writes:

in response to 81volguy:

Pretty sure you're a coach of the team, not a fan. Because this team has performed WAY below the way it should. Just watch the rest of the season, and we'll see who's right.

And you base this most insightful assessment on just what? Your long, successful Division 1 coaching career? Your intimate knowledge of baseball talent and performance expectation? Fact is "guy," you have no idea of just what kind of expectation we might have. But here are some facts regarding current performance: 1) Off to best start in school history. 2)Took series from the number 4 team in the country, including a 7-0, 2-hit whitewash. 3)The team has 5-7 freshman and sophomore's on the field at almost all times. 4) They are in the top few of the league in several categories. So just what is it that you see as so woeful in their performance that it portends a disaster for the rest of the season? We lost a couple we shouldn't have? Is that it? Actually, what it sounds like to me is that you simply have some personal issue regarding CDS. If so, get over it! And BTW, the season has yet to unfold and you're spot on....we'll just wait and see if you're right. (BTW.....I don't coach the team. I'm just a fan and played the game a few years.)

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