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Tennessee Eyes SEC Tournament to Boost Hosting Bid



The highly anticipated 2023 Southeastern Conference (SEC) baseball tournament is set to start Tuesday, May 23 and will showcase many of the nation's top collegiate teams. Tennessee rolls in as the 7 seed in the tournament and ranked no. 13 in the nation. The Vols find themselves on the bubble for hosting a regional in the upcoming NCAA baseball tournament, making their performance in the SEC tournament crucial to their postseason aspirations. Predicting the NCAA Regional hosts is an extremely tough task but one would expect that Tennessee is currently in a very good spot to host and a couple of wins in Hoover should all but lock up a host spot.


Tony Vitello had the tough task of replacing every bat in the lineup from the 2022 season. The talent level is up there with the best teams in the country, but they struggled to find their identity early in the season. In the midst of an inexperienced team struggling to find themselves, the Vols had to travel to face four consecutive top 5 teams in LSU, Florida, Arkansas, and Vandy. Having that kind of schedule at the beginning of SEC play is a brutal way to start a season and it showed with the Vols going 2-7 against LSU, Florida, and Arkansas. Coach Vitello got his guys back on track in the weekend series against Vanderbilt with a sweep that propelled them to a 15-4 record over the last 19 games of the season. Tennessee had series wins over Mississippi State, Kentucky, and South Carolina in 3 of the final 4 weeks of the regular season.


Given the resume and how well Tennessee has played over the last 5 weeks of the season, they should be very firmly in the conversation to host a regional for the 3rd consecutive year at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. A strong showing in the SEC tournament would undoubtedly improve their chances of securing a coveted hosting spot. Every victory in Hoover pushes them further along in the host discussion. The biggest knock on the resume for the Vols is being swept on the road by Missouri to start SEC play, as well as a 4-12 record on the road. That kind of road record is why it became so important for Tennessee to play in front of their own fans at LNS that first weekend.


The Vols will open the SEC Tournament with Texas A&M, a team they swept back in March. If the Vols manage to beat the Aggies on Tuesday, Arkansas will be waiting for them in the double elimination rounds. Tennessee is coming off a weekend in Columbia where the starting pitching looked as good as it has all year for Frank Anderson’s staff. While there were a couple of questionable decisions from Vitello and Anderson when it came to managing the bullpen, the staff as a whole had a great weekend. The starting pitching posted a line of 19.2 IP, 1.37 ERA, .155 BAA, 22 K, 10 H, 3 R, 2 BB against a South Carolina offense that finished 7th in the nation in HRs and 29th in OBP this season. Given the way Tennessee and Texas A&M are trending, the Vols should be favored in that game, but in a one game matchup in a conference tournament with two teams desperate to either make the tournament or host a regional, anything can happen. The SEC Tournament is lining up to be one of the best tournaments we’ve seen with more parity in the league this season than there has been in recent memory.


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