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Vol baseball picked by coaches to finish in top half of SEC East

Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics

The 2021 SEC Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll was released on Thursday afternoon. Tennessee was picked to finish third in the eastern division, its highest ranking in the preseason poll since also being picked to finish third in 2007.

Unanimous preseason No. 1 ranked Florida and Vanderbilt were the only two teams picked ahead of Tennessee in the SEC East. The Vols were ahead of South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri and Kentucky.

The SEC also announced the All-SEC Preseason teams voted on by the coaches. Tennessee infielder Max Ferguson was named a preseason All-SEC second-team selection at second base. Ferguson has also been named a preseason first-team All-American by D1Baseball.com and Baseball America, as well as a second-team All-American by Perfect Game.

The Florida native ranked second in the SEC with nine stolen bases while batting .333, scoring 12 runs and hitting two homers in 13 games played during the shortened 2020 season. Entering his third season with the Vols, Ferguson has been tabbed one of the top 2021 MLB Draft prospects by D1Baseball.com (No. 24) and Baseball America (No. 48).

Tennessee’s potential 2020 magical season came to a screeching halt just 17 games into the 2020 season due to COVID-19. The Vols were 15-2 and a consensus top 25 program by every major collegiate baseball poll heading into SEC play. But because of of COVID, the SEC canceled the season after the NCAA decided not to hold the College World Series this season.

At the plate, Tennessee ranked first nationally in runs scored (180) and runs per game at 10.6 per contest. It ranked second in home runs (31), on-base percentage (.442), and in slugging percentage (.556). The Vols ranked third in hits (193) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.89), fifth in batting average (.320), and sixth in doubles (43).

On the mound, Frank Anderson’s pitching staff was nearly just as dominant. Tennessee had the fifth-best ERA (2.00) in the country and ranked second in WHIP (0.94), which measures walks plus hits allowed per innings pitched. The group ranked third in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.89) and walks allowed per nine innings (2.06), and they were also 16th in hits allowed per nine innings (6.41).

Defensively, the Vols ranked in the top 20, coming in at No. 17 with a fielding percentage of .981.

Tennessee will begin its 2021 season next Friday, Feb. 19, with a three-game series against Georgia Southern on the road. First pitch of game one will be at 6:30 p.m. ET. Game two on Saturday will be at 2 p.m., while game three on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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