Hall to face undefeated Vols
Face Tennessee on road in first matchup with SEC team since 1987
Senior Benny Mejia stands on the mound waiting for the batter to step to the plate in the Pirates fall intersquad game. Matt Reichl, The Setonian
The baseball team heads to Knoxville to take on undefeated Tennessee in a three-game series this weekend.
After splitting this past weekend with two wins and two losses in the Big 10/Big East Challenge, the Pirates look forward to playing a team from one of the top baseball conferences in the country – the Southeastern Conference.
"We have an opportunity to play against the SEC Conference, which is known to be one of the stronger baseball conferences," head coach Rob Sheppard said.
While the Hall was winning their first Big East Conference Championship in 10 years and extending their season into the NCAA Tournament, the Volunteers were already thinking about next season.
With a record of 25-29 (7-23) last year, Tennessee finished last in the SEC Conference.
After beginning last season with a nine-game win streak, the Volunteers could not continue their success in conference play. Tennessee watched three SEC teams go to the College World Series, but the Volunteers also saw five of their players get drafted by MLB teams and a freshman receive All-SEC honors.
So far this season, Tennessee is 4-0 with wins over Northern Illinois and a one-run victory over Western Kentucky in 13 innings on Tuesday.
This year, the Volunteers are off to another winning start, behind first-year head coach Dave Serrano, who returns to Tennessee after two seasons as the assistant coach, from 1995 to 1996.
Serano, who also served as the head coach at Cal State Fullerton from 2008 to 2011 and UC Irvine from 2005 to 2007, is one of only 11 coaches to lead two programs to the College World Series.
Sheppard, however, said he's more focused on his team than the competition.
"We've got to play our style of baseball, continue to play fundamental baseball, and worry about ourselves."
In the Big 10/Big East Challenge this past weekend, Sheppard and his coaching staff learned a lot about the team that will help them prepare for this weekend against Tennessee as well as the rest of the season.
"A lot of guys had opportunities to show what they can do," Sheppard said. "It gave us a chance to evaluate some of our players, and make some adjustments that we need to do to be a little more successful."
Sheppard is referring to junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Harvey, whom he pulled from the bullpen into the starting rotation last Saturday.
Junior outfielder Guiseppe Papaccio was moved from center field to short stop while sophomore catcher Dillon Hamlin was positioned at home plate.
Among these players, some freshmen made their Division I debuts, while returning players were thrown into different roles.
The Pirates have not played many SEC schools, but the last time they faced one was in 1987 when they split with Auburn. Before that, Seton Hall had lost a game to Kentucky in 1983 and another to Vanderbilt in 1982.
"They're a good baseball conference," Sheppard said. "It's good to play against a team in that conference, and we're looking forward to it."
Krissy Wrobel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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