A 5-4 loss to No. 16 Ole Miss signaled the end of the regular season on Saturday afternoon for Tennessee baseball.
Following the loss, the Vols finish the regular season in ninth place in the SEC at 38-18 overall and 14-16 in conference play. Tennessee finished third in the SEC East after being picked to finish fifth before the season by the SEC coaches. It’s the highest finish in the division for the Vols since 2005, the same year that marks the last time the team has made it to the NCAA Tournament.
For Tennessee, their 38 wins mark the most they’ve had in a single season since they won 46 in 2005, and their 14 SEC victories are the most in a single season since the 2005 squad as well. That 2005 team went 18-15 against conference opponents.
Tennessee now turns its attention to the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2016. The Vols will be the 9-seed in the tourney and face Auburn in the first round at 5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Should they win, UT will advance to the second round on Wednesday and face 1-seed Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. ET.
“The guys are geeked up to go down there,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said following Saturday’s game. “Tuesday, it’ll be everybody on the list – be ready for any particular situation.”
The first round of the SEC Tournament, which takes place on Tuesday, is single-elimination. Once teams make it to the second round, the tournament turns into double-elimination. The tournament is held in Hoover, Alabama.
Tennessee hasn’t won a game in the SEC Tournament since it beat Vanderbilt 6-4 in the first round of the 2007 tournament. The Vols haven’t won multiple games in the SEC Tournament since 2005, the year the program went to the College World Series.
UT has won the tournament on three separate occasions, and they did so in back-to-back-to-back years (1993, 1994, 1995). In 15 appearances, Tennessee is 25-24 all-time in the SEC Tournament, though it’s been over a decade since they’ve won a game.
Vitello’s squad will be looking for redemption when the first pitch is thrown against Auburn down in Hoover. The Vols opened up conference play against the Tigers in Auburn from March 15-17. In Game 1 on the plains, Tennessee lost 2-0. UT then fell 5-2 in Game 2 and 5-3 in the series finale.
Though they had some success against Vanderbilt in Nashville during the weekend of March 29-31, the Vols will be looking for redemption against the Commodores as well should they advance to the second round.
Vandy took two of three against Tennessee when the two teams met in the regular season. The Commodores won the first two games of the series 4-2, and 10-4, respectively. The Vols took the series finale 7-6, but they lost the overall series.
“It’s one day at a time,” Vitello said of the upcoming challenge of the SEC Tournament. “Each day that we’ve come out of late, we’ve just asked the guys to play good baseball, and they’ve done it.”