What a difference a year can make.
Last season, Vanderbilt pulled away from the rest of the SEC early, cruising to a regular season championship with a 26-3 conference record.
This year, however, it's been a different story.
Two weeks into SEC play, all 14 members have suffered multiple conference losses, with only four teams not having reached the Commodores three-loss mark from 2013.
With that said, Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano is correct in saying that the Volunteers are in the midst of 10 weekends of challenge.
This weekend, though, marks the biggest of those challenges as the Vols travel to Columbia, S.C. to face the No. 2 South Carolina Gamecocks.
"It is a good challenge for us," Serrano said. "... There is no rest, but we know that in this conference. That is what is so great about being a member of this conference, there is never an easy weekend. We have a challenge this weekend just like we will have challenges in the remainder of the weekends of the season. It will be fun.
"It is a great atmosphere to go play. I am sure they are going to be packed in the stadium, 10-12,000 people in there, which is always exciting. It will just be another opportunity for our guys to grow up in a wonderful atmosphere and my hope is we will take advantage of the great atmosphere that they are going to create for us and use it to our advantage and play good baseball."
Tennessee's bats will have to contend with a South Carolina pitching staff that boasts a team ERA of 1.80, and two starters – Jack Wynkoop (Saturday) and Will Crowe (Sunday) – who will enter the weekend with ERA's under two.
The Gamecocks staff is stout from top to bottom, as they have thrown 10 shutouts to date and have six hurlers in the bullpen who have yet to surrender a run. To combat such a potent group of arms, the Vols will need to grind out their at-bats.
"It is going to be important for us to execute offensively and for the whole line up to contribute and for us to take quality at-bats and do the things that we do as a baseball team that allow us to be successful," Serrano said. "Numbers are numbers. They have good numbers. But we will go out there this weekend and meet that challenge."
Getting good at-bats, however, won't be the only thing the Vols have to accomplish to be successful over the weekend.
Tennessee will also have to contain a South Carolina offense that has six hitters batting over .300, led by Connor Bright, who currently wields a .378 batting average, which is tied for second-best in the conference.
Given the task of limiting the Gamecock limit will be seniors Nick Williams, Hunter Martin and Andrew Lee – UT's starters on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectfully.
"I'm just going to take it like I do every game," Williams said. "Go out there and compete my tail off. Throw the way I throw. I don't want to throw any different way just because it's a different team. I've got to go out there and compete and contribute any way I can to help the team win."
The Vols will face off against the Gamecocks at 7 p.m. EST on Friday. First pitch for Saturday and Sunday's contests inside Carolina Stadium will be at 4 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., respectfully.