Shortly after the Volunteers' 7-0 series-clinching victory over Vanderbilt Sunday afternoon, Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano quickly tagged the series win with a variety of descriptors, calling it anything from "a defining moment" to just simply "huge."
But then — as he's done many time throughout the season — UT's third-year head man pulled back the reins just a hair on the weekend success.
"It won't mean anything," Serrano said, "if we go out next week and not compete."
The statement will first be put to the test beginning tonight when the No. 21 Vols (21-9) head west to Cookeville, Tenn., for a matchup against Tennessee Tech (25-8) at 7 p.m. EST.
Despite facing two of the sport's most premiere competitors in back-to-back weekends — two series highlighted by the intense, high-caliber brand of baseball that permeates through the SEC — Serrano isn't easing off the gas pedal anytime soon, even for the brief, one-day dip out-of-conference.
"For me, Tuesday's a big game against Tennessee Tech, and it has nothing to do with the standings in the SEC," Serrano said. "It's more important about us playing good baseball.
"(We'll) keep staying on them. Keep staying on them about the little things. Little things lead to big things. We will stay — as a coaching staff — pretty committed to keeping them sharp and not allow them to get away with the little things."
The Vols will trot out junior righty Bret Marks (2-0, 0.00 ERA) looking to build off what already has been a productive campaign thus far in Knoxville. In his only other start this season, the former New York Yankee draft pick twirled three scoreless frames, struck out a pair, and allowed just one base knock in UT's 10-2 victory over La Salle on March 5.
In his last appearance, the Roswell, Ga., picked up the win in the Vols' wild 10-9 come-from-behind victory over Vanderbilt, tossing 2/3 of an inning with one strikeout and no runs or hits allowed.
"Give credit to Bret Marks," Serrano said on Saturday, "a young man who was highly recruited for us and has been a little tender, and we haven't been able to use him very much. And I put him in a huge situation."
While the Vols enter tonight's in-state battle riding a wave of momentum, much of the same can be said about the Golden Eagles in recent weeks. Although TTU did drop two of three this past weekend to Austin Peay, Matt Bragga's squad has won 12 of its last 17 games — a stretch that helped contribute to a 14-5 record in March.
Much of that success can be attributed to the offensive prowess of TTU third baseman Daniel Miles and outfielder Brandon Thomasson — two primary reasons why the Golden Eagles have put double-digit run totals in 45 percent (15-of-33) of their 2014 contests.
Miles leads TTU in average (.438), hits (57) and runs scored (46) while Thomasson tops the team in RBI (39), home runs (9) and triples (3).