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Vols were gearing up for sensational 2020 season

25 days ago
Tennessee Athletics

After ending a long NCAA Tournament drought in 2019, Tennessee baseball was off to another great start in 2020 and looked like a team with all the tools to make a deep postseason run before the season was cut short due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global health crisis.

The Vols were ranked as high as No. 11 in the nation after a 13-0 start to the year and were 15-2 heading into SEC play. UT's No. 11 national ranking in Week 4 was its highest since being ranked No. 11 in the 2007 preseason poll. Tennessee's 13-0 start was the second best in program history, behind last year's 15-0 start.

The Big Orange posted three straight weekend sweeps to start the year for the second consecutive season. UT opened its 2020 campaign with a three-game sweep of Western Illinois, outscoring the Leathernecks 45-4 for the series. The Vols followed that up with an extremely impressive weekend sweep at the Round Rock Classic in Texas before sweeping George Washington the next week.

Prior to the remainder of the season being postponed and eventually canceled, Tennessee was putting up some historic numbers. The Vols led the country in total runs (180) and runs per game (10.6) while ranking second in home runs (31), slugging percentage (.556), walks (124), on-base percentage (.442) and WHIP (0.94). UT's 180 runs scored were its most through 17 games in over 20 years. The 1998 Vols scored 193 runs in that span.

The Big Orange were also among the national leaders in a handful of other statistical categories, including: batting average: .320 (fifth), doubles: 43 (sixth), hits: 193 (third), ERA: 2.00 (fifth), fielding percentage: .981 (18th), hits allowed/nine innings: 6.41 (16th), shutouts: three (12th), strikeout-to-walk ratio: 4.89 (third) and walks allowed/nine innings: 2.06 (third).

Through 17 games, 14 different players on Tennessee's roster hit a home run, more than any other team in the nation. Nine players had multiple homers, led by the trio of Alerick Soularie (five), Zach Daniels (four) and Connor Pavolony (four).

The highlight of the shortened 2020 season was winning the inaugural Round Rock Classic in Round Rock, Texas. The Vols swept the field that included then No. 1 Texas Tech, Houston and No. 25 Stanford, outscoring those three teams by a combined score of 21-8. UT's 6-2 win over the Red Raiders to open the tournament was the program's sixth victory over a top-10 team and second over a top-ranked team since Tony Vitello took over as head coach prior to the 2018 season.

Tennessee finished the year ranked in five of the six major baseball polls. The Vols finished the season ranked No. 20 in the USA Today Top 25, their highest final ranking since 2005 (No. 7/8). Final 2020 rankings for all of the major baseball polls can be found below:

  • USA Today: No. 20
  • Collegiate Baseball Newspaper: No. 21
  • NCBWA: No. 22
  • Perfect Game: No. 22
  • Baseball America: No. 23
  • D1Baseball.com: NR

As a team, Tennessee was ranked among the top 25 nationally in the following statistical categories:

Hitting

  • Batting Average: .320 (5th)
  • Doubles: 43 (6th)
  • Hits: 193 (3rd)
  • Home Runs: 31 (2nd)
  • On-Base Percentage: .442 (2nd)
  • Runs: 180 (1st)
  • Runs/Game: 10.6 (1st)
  • Slugging Percentage: .556 (2nd)
  • Walks: 124 (2nd)

Pitching/Fielding

  • ERA: 2.00 (5th)
  • Fielding Percentage: .981 (18th)
  • Hits Allowed/Nine Innings: 6.41 (16th)
  • Shutouts: 3 (12th)
  • Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 4.89 (3rd)
  • WHIP: 0.94 (2nd)
  • Walks Allowed/Nine Innings: 2.06 (3rd)