It all comes down to this weekend’s pivotal Southeastern Conference road
series for the Tennessee baseball team. The Volunteers arrived in Gainesville,
Fla., Wednesday afternoon well aware that a successful series against Florida
is imperative if the club hopes to occupy a slot in next week’s SEC Tournament
bracket. Tennessee currently sits in 10th place in the overall league
standings, and only the league’s top-eight teams earn tournament berths.
Game times for the series with the Gators are set for 6:30 p.m. on both
Thursday and Friday, and 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Saturday's game will be
televised regionally on Sun Sports, and all three contests can be heard in the
Knoxville area on WNML The Sports Animal (AM 990, FM 99.1 & 99.3).
Although Tennessee (31-22, 11-14 SEC) currently finds itself on the outside
looking in at the SEC Tournament picture, the Vols have an opportunity to play
their way into contention for the annual event at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.
The Big Orange are hitting at a .297 clip and have constructed a 4.65 ERA.
Five Vols have raised their season batting average to .313 or better. Junior
outfielder Andy Simunic leads the way with a .348 average, 69 hits and 26
stolen bases. Sophomore second baseman Tony Delmonico has raised his season
average to .327 after hitting at a .478 clip with nine RBIs over UT’s last
At 27-26 (14-13 SEC), Florida occupies third place in the SEC Eastern Division
and sixth place in the overall league race. The Gators have fashioned a 16-15
home record and have won two of their five home SEC series this year. Florida
sports a .295 team batting average and a 5.49 staff ERA.
Offensively, the Gators are led by senior first baseman Matt LaPorta, who has
built a reputation as one of the nation’s top collegiate hitters. LaPorta
leads the SEC in batting average (.423), slugging percentage (.853), on-base
percentage (.579) and ranks second in the conference with 19 home runs.
This weekend’s pitching matchups feature Tennessee ace James Adkins (5-7, 2.86
ERA) in Thursday’s series-opener against Florida right-hander Kyle Mullaney
(4-1, 4.85 ERA). Freshman left-hander Nick Hernandez (4-2, 5.25 ERA) will
start for UT Friday, while the Gators send right-hander Bryan Augenstein (6-5,
5.49 ERA) to the hill. And freshman Billy Bullock (2-6, 5.64 ERA) will take
the mound for Florida Saturday against a UT pitcher who has yet to be
The Volunteers trail the all-time series with the Gators 72-129, dating to
1916. Tennessee has won six of its last 10 meetings with UF and two of the
last three series in Gainesville. The Vols under Rod Delmonico are 24-30
against Florida, including an 11-13 mark in Gainesville.
Florida is the home state of eight current Vols as well as third-year pitching
coach Mike Bell. This weekend marks UT’s second trip to the Sunshine State
this year, as it opened the season with a three-game series against Florida
State in Tallahassee.
Some other SEC series that UT fans should keep an eye on this weekend:
Ninth-place LSU (12-14-1) travels to first-place and No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt
(19-8). Tennessee owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over LSU. Eighth-place
Kentucky (12-14-1) hosts 12th-place Auburn (8-19). The Vols also own the
head-to-head tiebreaker over Kentucky. Seventh-place Alabama (13-14) goes to
third-place Mississippi State (14-11). Alabama owns the head-to-head
tiebreaker over Tennessee.