Last season: 57-9 (25-5 in SEC), lost in super regionals
Final ranking: No. 8
Coach (record at school): Tony Vitello (191-77, five seasons)
The good news: The Volunteers were college baseball’s dominant team in 2022, running away with the SEC title and the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee came up short against Notre Dame in super regionals, but it was a season-long force. One key reason for that was its pitching staff, which led the nation in ERA (2.51). The Volunteers now return the five pitchers who threw the most innings last year, including their rotation of righthanders Chase Dollander, Chase Burns and Drew Beam. While they had five pitchers drafted and lefthander Redmond Walsh, the program’s all-time saves leader, graduated, the Volunteers still return veterans Kirby Campbell and Camden Sewell, who have combined to make 130 career appearances. There will be no shortage of options for pitching coach Frank Anderson, who again should have one of the best staffs in the country.
The bad news: Tennessee not only had the best pitching staff in the country, it also had the nation’s deepest lineup. Eight regulars from that group, including top-100 draft picks Drew Gilbert, Jordan Beck and Trey Lipscomb, are now gone. That’s a lot of offensive production to replace (Tennessee averaged 9.3 runs per game), as well as a loss of stability for a defense that ranked 16th nationally in fielding (.980). The Volunteers will look to a few holdovers in Blake Burke, Jared Dickey and Christian Moore to step into bigger roles after showing promise—and power—in limited action in 2022. They also hit the transfer portal hard, bringing in premium talents like shortstop Maui Ahuna (Kansas), a potential first-round pick, and outfielder Griffin Merritt, the 2022 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year. There’s plenty of talent for the Volunteers to work with, they just have to find the right combination and find the new leaders for the offense.
Player to know: Chase Dollander, RHP.
Dollander transferred to Tennessee a year ago after pitching his freshman season at Georgia Southern. He proved to be a perfect fit for the Volunteers and broke out in 2022, going 10-0, 2.39 with 108 strikeouts and 13 walks in 79 innings. He was named SEC pitcher of the year, an All-American and established himself as the top pitching prospect in the 2023 draft. He has premium stuff and plus control, giving him the tools to dominate college hitters.
Path to Omaha:…