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February 24, 2014
Serrano sees his Vols building
Dave Serrano would tell anyone who would listen before the season just how much confidence he had in the 2014 version of his Tennessee baseball team.
The third-year baseball coach said the Vols would use this season to take the necessary steps to become relevant in college baseball again. He said his team would get back to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., where Tennessee hasn't been since 2007. He even bemoaned national media for not ranking his club in preseason polls.
Two weekends into the season, Serrano is making all that talk standup.
His team is 7-0 after completing a weekend sweep of nationally ranked UNLV. The Vols swept Purdue to open the season and picked up a midweek win over Appalachian State.
"We're excited about what's going on," Serrano said on WNML's 'The Nation' Sunday night, after a 4-2 win over UNLV. "But we're keeping it in perspective because of the fact we know we haven't done anything yet.
"We're very proud of what our guys have done to this point."
And according to Serrano, 'this point' is far from what they're capable of being. The way he tells it, his team hasn't erupted yet.
"I said to my staff before we took the field last Sunday against Purdue, I said, 'You know, I don't even know if we realize how good we're going to be to some extent,'" Serrano said.
"We know it's a process, we know we have a younger team still ― which intrigues me even more, that we have room for growth ― but I feel like we're sitting on a volcano right now, to be honest with you.
"We have a lot of talent, we have a lot of dedicated young men," Serrano continued. "I've been fortunate to be around a lot of good teams in my career, but I'll tell you, this group really puts in the extra time on their own."
That extra time has helped the Vols go 4-0 in games decided by two runs or less, including the three meetings with UNLV.
"It was evident (Saturday) afternoon," Serrano said. "We come back and win a game (5-4 over UNLV) in the bottom of the ninth and I happen to poke my head in the weight room to look for somebody and there were four guys working out right after the game.
" ... I think that's why the game is rewarding us to some extent, because we're putting in that extra time. And the commitment to their bodies, the conditioning, how they're eating, everything across the board these guys are trying to do at a championship level."
Serrano's first Tennessee team, in 2012, started 7-0 before finishing the season with an overall record of 24-31 and an SEC record of 8-22. The Vols started 15-2 in 2011, the last season under former coach Todd Raleigh, but finished the year 25-29.
The best start in program history is 8-0, which could be matched Friday, when Tennessee opens another weekend series at Lindsey Nelson Stadium against Quinnipiac.
"I know a lot of people heard me and the confidence I had in this team, but that's from my experience from being around good teams in my career," Serrano said. "And the only difference was this program hasn't done it with these guys; these guys haven't won at that level.
"But we have all the ingredients in place for us to start doing it at this level, and hopefully maintain it for many years to come."