The Dave Serrano era at Tennessee wrapped up its first season on May 19, as the Vols lost to 18th-ranked Arkansas 8-3 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Despite finishing the season with a losing record of 24-31 overall and a last place finish of 8-22 in SEC play, the Volunteers accomplished many impressive feats this year on the diamond and have a reason to look forward to the future of their baseball program.
"I'm excited and thrilled for this opportunity I've been given to bring this team back to its ranks in the SEC and at the national level," Serrano said. "I've really felt accepted here in my first year and the support staff has been great."
Serrano, who led UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton each to the College World Series, opened up his tenure at UT with the team winning its first seven games, which was the second best start to a season in school history.
The Vols also recorded their first home sweep of an SEC opponent since 2008 when they took all three games from Alabama early in conference play. It was only the second time in history they had swept Alabama.
UT put together a second seven-game win streak, which spanned from March 27-April 6 and concluded with a series-opening 5-4 win against the two-time defending national champion South Carolina.
Through their first 30 games, UT compiled 20-10 record and a solid 6-4 mark in SEC play. It was the fastest the program had reached the 20-win mark since the 2005 campaign, when the Vols made an appearance in the College World Series.
"I was thrilled about the way we opened up the season," Serrano said. "The guys were playing great ball and the Alabama sweep was definitely one of the highlights of the season."
However, the second half of the season was not kind to the Vols. they won just four games of their last 25 contests, which included a 2-12 mark in SEC play.
"This season was a tale of two half's," Serrano said. "It didn't help with our team being as young as it is and not very deep. The dismissal of one of our key players due to off the field issues had its impact as well as losing (Friday night starting pitcher) Zack Godley four weeks with an oblique injury. However, those are not excuses that make up for the way we finished. "
Freshman second baseman Will Maddox led the club in batting average with a .297 mark and in total bases with 79. It was just the third time in history a freshman led the team in batting average. Maddox was named to the SEC Freshman Team for his play.
Junior outfielder/pitcher Drew Steckenrider, who was selected to the SEC second team, led the team with six home runs, and also impressed from the mound, leading the team in appearances (27), ERA (3.36), strikeouts (79) and opponent batting average (.197). It is still up in question whether or not he will return for next season, as he could be picked in the major league draft.
Godley will return to next year's team as the ace after gaining the confidence of his head coach to be the top weekend starter. Godley made 11 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen on his way to finishing the season with a 4-2 record and 3.50 ERA.
"We expect him to be one of the leaders on the team next year," Serrano said. "He has the experience of being a weekend starter and he did a very good job in his role."
The overall team batting average on the season was .248 while the pitching staff compiled a 4.65 ERA.
With six seniors graduating, including shortstop Zack Osborne who played in the third-most games ever as a Tennessee Vol (216), the Vols will have to fill some holes for next years ball club.
"We have a very big recruiting class coming in with a lot of JUCO players as well as good high school players that we expect to step in right away and have an impact," Serrano said. "However, that means we will have a young ball club again which is a bad thing to some extent but not something we can't overcome."
Next season, the Vols will open up the year on the west coast against UNLV and also play host early in the campaign to Arizona State.
"I think that we will have one of the toughest if not the toughest out of conference schedule in the SEC," Serrano said. "I don't care if we don't have an unblemished record I want our team to be prepared going into our 30 conference games."
The Vols are excited for next season, especially considering how much the fan base has grown. This season a total of 63,084 were in attendance at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, ranking second highest of all-time.
"That just shows it is another one of the building blocks for this program," Serrano said.
While the 2012 season will be one that the players and Coach Serrano will never want to repeat, the building blocks for the program have been laid down and there is much room to grow.