Vols Had Some of the Best Hitters in College Baseball this Season

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Tennessee’s baseball team’s potential magical season came to a screeching halt nearly two weeks ago. The Vols were 15-2 and a consensus top 25 program by every major collegiate baseball poll heading into SEC play.

But because of the ongoing COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis, the SEC suspended play through April 15th before ultimately canceling the season after the NCAA decided not to hold the College World Series this season.

The Vols still had some of the best hitters this season despite a year in which SEC play did not take place. D1Baseball.com ranked the top 50 hitters of each grade from an analytical perspective, and Tennessee was well represented.

D1Baseball broke down the best hitters across the country in three separate categories: plate discipline, hit ability, and game power. According to the publication, “‘plate discipline’ is a measure of how well a batter controls the strike zone. ‘Hit ability’ simply measures a batter’s ability to flat-out hit and reach base while ‘game power’ is straightforward: did the player produce extra-base hits, getting to the power he may show in batting practice.”

The rankings are computed with an adjustment to account for park effects of the most extreme hitter and pitcher-friendly parks, as well as an adjustment for a team’s strength of schedule.

Based on the four weeks of statistics from the 2020 season, Tennessee first baseman Luc Lipcius was the 13th-best junior hitter in the country, while outfielder Zach Daniels was the 20th-best, respectively.

Lipcius finished with an overall grade of 89.1 thanks to a plate discipline grade of 88.2, a hit ability grade of 79.6, and a game power of 80.1. In 17 games, Lipcius compiled a batting average of .326, two home runs, and 15 RBI.

Daniels finished with an overall grade of 88.4 behind a plate discipline grade of 81.4, a hit ability grade of 80.5, and a game power grade of 84.8. In his breakout season, Daniels was second on the team in home runs (4) and batting average (.357). His 18 RBI were the most on the team.

Vols catcher Connor Pavolony was deemed the 17th-best sophomore hitter behind an overall grade of 87.2. Pavolony recorded a plate discipline grade of 80.1 to go along with a grade of 75.7 in the hit ability category and a grade of 87.8 in the game power category. Pavolony was hitting .342 at the plate in 12 game when the season came to an end. He also had three home runs and drove in 12 runs.

Rounding out the hitters, outfielder Drew Gilbert was ranked the 43rd-best freshman hitter with an overall grade of 83.0. Gilbert recorded a plate discipline grade of 84.0, hit ability grade of 76.8, and a game power grade of 67.7. In 16 starts and 17 games played, Gilbert hit .350 in his rookie campaign on Rocky Top.

Ben McKee
Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He grew up an Army brat and lived in Alabama for a bit, but he bleeds orange. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also a co-host on the RTI Live Show and RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.