Tennessee celebrates after beating UC Irvine on Saturday (Aaron Fitt)


Tony Gwynn Classic Mega-Notebook


SAN DIEGO — Tennessee knew it would find out a lot about its young team right out of the gate this spring. The Volunteers opened their season with an 11-day road trip that began with a series win at Memphis, then continued with a week in Southern California. Tennessee beat Loyola Marymount 8-4 on Wednesday, then played three games in two days at the Tony Gwynn Classic in San Diego. And they aced that test, scoring 30 runs in three victories against Seton Hall, San Diego State and UC Irvine.

“Like I said to the guys when we got out there to left field (after beating UC Irvine 10-9 on Saturday), it’s been a great two weeks, 11 days,” Tennessee coach Dave Serrano said. “We said that when we took this venture that this was an opportunity for this team to come together and grow up, we’ve got a lot of new faces, some young faces, good players. And it worked out perfectly. We get some wins, we got a lot of guys some work, get some freshmen some experience, and had a lot of success behind it. We’ll go home, we don’t play until next weekend at home, and I think we’re gonna go home a pretty confident bunch, which has probably been lacking in this program a long, long time.”

It’s too early to guarantee that the Vols will break through and get back to regionals for the first time since 2005 — the SEC schedule is a meat-grinder, and Tennessee has struggled in the league for more than a decade. But after watching the Vols a couple of times this weekend, I’m ready to buy in. This is a really good, versatile lineup filled with exciting young talent and some quality veterans, and the pitching staff is deeper than it has been in a long time. Tennessee is going to be a real contender in the SEC — count on it.

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