Sept. 22, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - On the first official day of fall, the Tennessee baseball team opened its fall practice schedule on Sunday, hitting the field with plenty of pace at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
After multiple inches of rain on Saturday, UT head coach Dave Serrano was thrilled his squad was even able to step foot on Robert M. Lindsay Field this afternoon, and came away pleased with what he saw.
"First and foremost, the weather cooperated tremendously for us," said Serrano. "We had a beautiful day and it's great to start the fall with such a beautiful day and to be able to get out on the field. Our grounds crew did a fabulous job after close to three inches of rain yesterday.
"It was great to be around the guys again on an official basis. We got some stuff in today - the basic stuff - but there's a lot of work to do. It's always exciting as a coach to be around your guys, especially when you have such a great group of young men that you enjoy being around each and every day."
With 20 newcomers - 12 freshmen and eight junior college transfers - there are plenty of new faces around the diamond, but the staff liked the mistake-free ball they played on day one.
"I don't know if anyone stood out, but with how many new guys we have, I don't think you saw a lot of first-year mistakes," said Serrano. "I give a lot of that credit to our returning guys, who have done a good job with helping [the newcomers] get acclimated to how we're going to do things.
"There's a lot of coaching and teaching that will go on throughout the fall, into the early part of the winter and through the season. I don't know if anyone stood out, but I think there were a lot of good quality performances by a lot of different guys in the practice."
PUSHING THE PACE
While it was only just the first day together as a team, Coach Serrano and his staff pushed the tempo and continually emphasized pace to their 41 Volunteers.
"How we practice... And that's fast," Serrano said about his day one emphasis. "For some guys, that's going to be a little new. We're on and off the field, hustling all around and getting in baseball condition with how we practice. We want to play and practice at a speed that's going to make it uncomfortable for our opponents, and be able to be good at doing that."
Freshman infielder and Knoxville native Nick Senzel quickly took notice.
"It's a lot different, a lot different than high school ball," said Senzel. "It's high pace, lots of energy and the coaches demand that. It's really different playing two positions. Coming from Farragut - which is known for its baseball - it's a privilege to come here and play. The pace is the real big difference maker."
CONTINUING THE LINE
Continuing the tradition of great players from Farragut High School to play at Tennessee, Senzel is joined by former Admirals Eric Freeman, Kyle Serrano and Jammer Strickland in the 2013 recruiting class, which is ranked 14th nationally according to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
"It's an honor," said Senzel about playing at Tennessee. "I know a lot of guys here, a bunch of teammates that went to Farragut that I played with. We're trying to build this program back to where it was a long time ago. We want to go to Hoover, make a regional and all that. We're here for a reason. [The coaches] brought us here for a reason. We're trying to build this program up to where it once was."
Whether it's as a team or individually, every new beginning starts with setting goals.
"The goal is to work hard to be a great defensive team," said Serrano. "We're going to win off of pitching and defense. We're going to be a team that executes in everything we do offensively. A lot of the fall has to do with the coaching staff realizing what we have and what kind of maneuvers we have in the depth."
And finally for Serrano and his staff, depth does not appear to be an issue.
"For the first time I can honestly say we have depth now," said Serrano. "We have guys that can play numerous positions; we're two or three deep at every position. It's not just numbers, it's quality depth. It's taken two good recruiting classes to come in, but I really feel there are a lot of battles. I told the team, each and every day if you're not bringing you're A-game then someone is going to pass you."
Senzel believes if he works on the basics and takes it all in, everything else will fall into place.
"I just want to improve [my knowledge] of the game," said Senzel. "They throw a bunch of stuff at you so you have to be a sponge out here. Just knowing the game, working hard, working on my off days, coming in and working hard individually. I just have to do the stuff I need to do and everything will work out."