Tennessee’s baseball team hasn’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2005. That changes on Friday.
The No. 2 seed Vols (38-19) will take on No. 3 seed Liberty (42-19) in the first round of the Chapel Hill Regional in the 2019 NCAA Tournament on Friday. First pitch is at approximately 7:00 PM Eastern and will be watchable only online. The game will be streamed on ESPN3 or the ESPN app.
For the Vols, this year’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament will be their 10th overall bid in the tournament, and it ends a 14-year drought for Tennessee.
How has Tennessee performed in the past in the NCAA Tournament? How about against Liberty? Do two-seeds have a strong edge against three-seeds in the tournament?
We take a look at that and more in our “by the numbers” analysis of the Vols’ NCAA Tournament history and appearance this year.
This season marks the 10th time the Vols have made an appearance in a regional for the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Tournament adopted the regional format in 1975, and Tennessee first made an appearance in a regional during the 1993 season. Then, there were six teams in each regional as opposed to four now. The current format of the NCAA Tournament (64 total teams, four-team regional, and best-of-three super regional) has been around since 1999. Tennessee has been the host team for five of their nine previous regional appearances.
In the Vols’ previous nine regional appearances, Tennessee has gone 19-13 overall. The last time Tennessee appeared in a regional — 2005 — the Vols went 3-0 with wins over Austin Peay, Winthrop, and Wichita State to advance to the Super Regional. Tennessee has never gone winless in a regional.
The Vols own three regional titles in their nine previous appearances. Tennessee won the Knoxville Regional in 1995, 2001, and 2005. The Vols advanced straight to the College World Series in 1995, and they made it to the Super Regional in both 2001 and 2005. Both of those squads also ended up advancing to the College World Series.
Tennessee is 6-2 all-time in the first game of a regional match-up. The Vols haven’t lost the first game of regional since 2004 when they dropped their opener to UNC-Wilmington by a score of 8-5. The Vols also lost the first game of their regional match-up in 1996, falling to West Virginia 8-4.
This year, Tennessee is playing in North Carolina for only the third time in their NCAA Tournament history. The previous two times that UT has played in North Carolina, they’ve gone 3-2 overall. Tennessee is just 1-2 in North Carolina in a regional, though. The Vols played in Kinston, NC in the 2004 regional and lost to UNC-Wilmington, defeated Stony Brook, then lost to UNC-Wilmington again. Tennessee also played in Kinston, NC for a Super Regional in 2001, going 2-0 against East Carolina.
The Vols had only played Liberty one time ever in baseball until this season. Now, Tennessee will be facing the Flames for the second time in a little over three months. Tennessee first played Liberty in 1977, winning 10-7. The Vols hosted the Flames this season back on February 26th, and UT won 7-1 in that contest, improving Tennessee’s record against Liberty all-time to 2-0.
Over the last 10 years, a two-seed has faced a three-seed 160 times in the opening round of a regional in the NCAA Tournament. In those 160 contests, the two-seed has gone 83-77. No. 2 seeds were 9-7 against No. 3 seeds in last year’s tournament. Tennessee is the two-seed in the Chapel Hill Regional this year while Liberty is the three-seed. There’s been only twice in the last 10 years where three-seeds have beaten two-seeds more often in the NCAA Tournament. In 2013, three-seeds went 9-7 against two-seeds in the first game of a regional, and the No. 3 seeds won 11 of the 16 games they played against No. 2 seeds in the first game of a regional in 2011.