Alas, baseball Vols have weaknesses

Marvin Westwestwords

Find the aspirin bottle. This may give you a headache.

Sorry to hit you with bad news but make-believe analysts and ESPN self-promoters have settled on two rock-solid reasons why Tennessee will not prevail in the College World Series.

Point 1. The ball park in Omaha is just too big. Volunteer “home” runs will be caught on the warning track.

Counter-point: Indeed, fences are closer at Lindsey Nelson Stadium but some of the Vols’ 173 long balls were struck on the road. Some of Christian Moore’s 32 blasts would have gone out of the Grand Canyon.

Point 2. Tennessee pitching simply isn’t good enough. The best starter, Drew Beam, has struggled in the past three weeks. He didn’t make it past the fifth inning against Mississippi State (SEC tournament), Indiana (NCAA regional) or Evansville (super regional).

His earned run average for those three adventures was 9.69. In theory, the remaining teams are better than those that didn’t make it to Omaha.

Beam, best Sunday starter in the country the previous two seasons, was Tony Vitello’s most dependable pitcher in the absence of A.J. Russell.

That is a sad story. Russell’s ERA was 0.89 in 24 appearances as a freshman in 2023. Opponents hit .095. He developed arm trouble. He faces Tommy John surgery.

Counter-point: Tennessee has pretty good relief pitching (think A.J. Causey) and that quirky left-handed hero Zander Sechrist. Nobody has convinced him that he is ordinary. The way Zander handled Evansville in the do-or-disaster game on Sunday made him look like a Hall of Fame candidate.

Coming soon will be definitive proof, one way or the other. Tennessee plays Florida State on Friday evening, starting at 7 (ESPN). The Seminoles may open with Jamie Arnold, supposedly the best starting pitcher in all of Omaha.

FSU comes in with a 47-15 record. Tennessee is 55-12. FSU has far more World Series experience. This is the 24th appearance. FSU is an unbelievable 0-24 in pursuit of championships.

This time, FSU has a professional hitter still dominating college baseball. James Tibbs, Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, has 31 home runs (one fewer than Moore) and 100 runs batted in.

Tibbs hit three homers in the 10-8 elimination victory over UConn, the last in the 12th inning. I’m scared to check what he did in the opening 24-4 blowout of the Huskies but there really needs to be a national have-mercy rule.

The Seminoles’ Cam Smith is another first-round MLB draft choice. Conner Whittaker pitched 3-1/3 innings of shutout relief in the super final.

North Carolina and Virginia, in the Tennessee side of the World Series bracket, will play Friday at 2 p.m. on ESPN. The Tar Heels knocked out West Virginia in the super regionals. Virginia swept Kansas State.

The Tar Heels have an unusual record, 37-3 at home and 10-11 away. Based on the national map, Omaha is away.

Vance Honeycutt is Carolina’s big gun. He hit a walk-off home run in Game 1 of the super regional and another home run on the first pitch of Game 2.

Virginia has the second-highest team batting average (.336) in college baseball. North Carolina batted .304. All the Vols combined for .310.

Virginia pitcher Jay Woolfolk didn’t make a start in April or May but reemerged at tournament time and performed well in deciding games of both regionals. I can’t explain it.

World Series schedule in brief (all games on ESPN unless otherwise noted):

Bracket 1

  • Friday
  • Game 1: North Carolina vs. Virginia; 2 p.m.
  • Game 2: Tennessee vs. Florida State; 7 p.m.
  • Sunday
  • Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. loser Game 2; 2 p.m.
    Game 6: Winner Game 1 vs. winner Game 2; 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday
  • Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. loser Game 6; 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday
  • Game 11: Winner Game 6 vs. winner Game 9; 2 p.m. on ESPN
  • Thursday
  • Game 13 (if necessary): Winner Game 11 vs. loser Game 11; TBD

Bracket 2

  • Saturday
  • Game 3: Kentucky vs. NC State; 2 p.m.
    Game 4: Texas A&M vs. Florida; 7 p.m.
  • Monday
  • Game 7: Loser Game 3 vs. loser Game 4; 2 p.m.
    Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. winner Game 4; 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday
  • Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. loser Game 8; 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday
  • Game 12: Winner Game 8 vs. winner Game 10; 7 p.m.
  • Thursday
  • Game 13/14 (if necessary): Winner Game 12 vs. loser Game 12; time to be determined

Championship series

  • Saturday June 22
  • Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday June 23 Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 2 p.m. on ABC
  • Monday June 24 Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner (if necessary), 7 p.m. on ESPN

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is


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