They combined for 37 home runs, 127 RBIs and a .356 batting average last season for a Tennessee baseball team that finished with a 26-29 record and failed to make the SEC or NCAA Tournaments.
This season, Cody Hawn and Blake Forsythe will be the cornerstones of a Volunteer team with aspirations of advancing to postseason play for the first time since 2005.
Both Tennessee natives (Hawn from Knoxville and Forsythe from Memphis) have garnered numerous All-American honors this offseason, but head coach Todd Raleigh is hoping the two will appear on All-American teams after the season as well.
“When you’re an All-American, you’ve got to play like an All-American,” Raleigh said. “It doesn’t do any good to be a preseason All-American (and not perform like one).”
Hawn won the team’s triple crown in 2009 leading the Vols in batting average (.364), home runs (22) and RBIs (81), becoming just the 10th Vol to accomplish the feat.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself last year, and that’s a reason why I struggled early,” Hawn said. “It was my dream to be (at Tennessee). I was trying to do too many things. I have a year of experience under my belt right now, and it’s really going to help a lot. I know what to expect.”
Raleigh is high on confidence in his first baseman and even higher in his praise for the left-handed slugger who played in the Cape Cod League over the summer.
“Cody is as good of a hitter as anybody in the country,” Raleigh said. “I know it’s hard to build on what he did last year, but I don’t see why he can’t because this kid can really hit, and he’s a special player.”
Given his success at the plate, opposing pitchers would usually look to find ways to pitch around Hawn, but pitchers usually don’t have to face back-to-back All-Americans.
“With (Hawn) and Forsythe in the middle (of the order), it certainly brings an element to (our) team, and (our opponents) have to stop that,” Raleigh said. “If they’re going to pitch around Cody ... we can hurt them in other areas.”
In addition to batting cleanup behind Hawn, Forsythe anchors the hardest position on the field to Raleigh: behind the plate as catcher. The junior spent the past summer playing with USA Collegiate Baseball National Team after earning First Team All-SEC honors in 2009.
The Diamond Vols are optimistic that their version of the “Bash Brothers,” minus the steroids, can lead them to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., and onto a bid in the NCAA Tournament.
“I really think this is going to be the year for us to step back out there and prove to everybody that we belong among the top 20 teams in the nation,” Forsythe said.