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March 29, 2012

Future Diamond Vol Plunkett finds comfort on Rocky Top

Andrew Plunkett could have allowed the baseball recruiting process to further unfold. Memphis University School's rangy prospect never saw the need.

Plunkett, who recently went public with his commitment to first-year University of Tennessee coach Dave Serrano, knew he wanted to be a Vol after a couple of fall trips to Rocky Top.

"It took me a while to figure it out, but once I went and checked out the school I knew I really wanted to go there. But I wanted to talk to my parents first and let them know," said the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder who is an excellent hitter, has impressive outfield range and also can pitch. "I'd gotten an offer from Air Force and Vanderbilt was acting like they were going to offer me. So it was between (those three programs)."

Plunkett, however, is close friends with current UT backup catcher Jason Manis, and the MUS standout had already felt the enthusiasm of the Vols' new coaching staff even before recent wins against nationally-ranked foes.

"I love the coaches for sure; there's no doubt. And then knowing that they beat Texas, that made me really pumped up," Plunkett said. "Because after I had committed, they beat Texas. And it was like, 'They're doing some good things now.'"

A 2013 prospect, Plunkett has the Owls soaring in the midst of an impressive winning tear. MUS' last four victories have been abbreviated, run-rule triumphs. Even after some early-season struggles in a Florida tournament, Plunkett was focused on lending a steady hand to the team.

"I feel like I'm bringing some leadership," said Plunkett, who has deep home run power but doesn't consider himself a power hitter. "Really gap to gap (hitting), but lately I've been hitting it solid and getting some backspin on the ball and getting it out. We'll see how it keeps going, see if I keep hitting some more home runs."

Playing travel baseball since age 9 and having dabbled in football, which was the college sport of choice for his father, Scott, at Central Arkansas, Plunkett has maintained a blue-collar approach to improving.

"I just feel like I try to work harder than anyone else and as I got older, I tried to get better each year," said Plunkett, who's played baseball since tee ball at age 5. "That's how I thought about it."

Plunkett kept thinking about the Vols following an October camp at UT and then a follow-up visit the weekend Tennessee hosted South Carolina on the gridiron. Those experiences, plus his friendship with Manis and the budding relationships with the Vols' coaches, were enough for Plunkett's choice.

Now he's focused on his current season --- and checking out the Vols in person later this season when they complete a home-and-away series on the diamond with rival Memphis.

"When they come down to Memphis, I plan on watching that one for sure," said Plunkett, who already had stroked four extra-base hits for the Owls in their first five games this season. "And I'll probably call Jason and ask him which one I should come to."

Plunkett is considered a player to watch and a "high follow" by the baseball scouting Website, Perfectgame.org.

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