Baseball tees off fall practice, welcomes 18 newcomers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee baseball team will kick off the fall portion of its practice on Wednesday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Head Coach Todd Raleigh will welcome 18 newcomers to the squad, including eight junior college players, eight freshmen, one transfer and a familiar face. The newcomers join a group of 19 returning players from the 2010 season.

"We are extremely excited about the group of players we have on campus this fall," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "The overall athleticism and physical abilities that each of them bring is off the charts. Without a doubt, this fall will be the most competitive we have had in my time at Tennessee in terms of the number of players we have pushing for playing time in the spring. That competition will only drive our players to be even more successful and help us to maximize every minute of practice time we have. They are already off to a good start in the classroom and have been working out extremely hard in the weight room to prepare themselves, not only for fall practice, but the upcoming season as well.

"With eight new pitchers coming in, we will spend this fall trying to determine how best to utilize each of their individual talents. The depth that we have on the mound though, far exceeds any we have had in the past three years and that is definitely something we are looking forward to. Offensively, we have a great mix of power and speed that we feel will allow us to continue the success we have had at the plate over the last few seasons."

Highlighting this year's group of newcomers are freshman Andrew Toles and senior Tyler Horne. A fourth-round selection by the Florida Marlins in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft, Toles comes to Knoxville following a standout career at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Ga., where he hit .510 with a pair of home runs and 25 stolen bases as a senior last year. Horne, meanwhile, will rejoin the Tennessee squad as a senior this season after hitting .299 with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs in 2009.

Also joining the Vols from the high school ranks are Knoxville natives Ethan Bennett and Nick Williams, both Louisville Slugger High School All-Americans from Farragut High School. The 2010 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year, Bennett hit .407 with a state single-season record 27 home runs as a senior. He also set the national record for home runs in consecutive games, belting 16 during a 10-game stretch in April. A 6-2 right-handed pitcher, Williams finished his senior campaign with a perfect 9-0 record and one save while posting a team-leading 0.88 ERA. In 63.1 innings of work, he allowed just eight earned runs on 26 hits while striking out 95 batters and walking just 29.

Other freshman joining the team include catcher Blake Berger from Jacksonville, Fla., left-handed pitcher Nathan Foriest from Kingston Springs, Tenn., Ryan Gallardo, a switch-hitting catcher from Roswell, Ga., right-handed pitcher Carter Watson from Siegel High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Hunter Mitchem, a catcher from Murfreesboro, Tenn. Hooper Paty, a sophomore backstop from Nashville, has been added to the UT roster as well after transferring from Ole Miss.

The remaining eight newcomers all arrived at Rocky Top following impressive junior college careers. The list includes five pitchers, two infielders and a catcher. At 6-5, 215, Jerod Peper is the tallest of 17 newcomers. A right-handed pitcher, he struck out 67 batters in 49 innings for Seminole State College last in Oklahoma last year and could figure into the mix at first base as well. Not far behind him is 6-4 righty Levi Dean who was 7-0 with six saves and a 1.54 ERA in two years at Lower Columbia College in Washington. The Vols also signed Dean's former LCC teammate Chris Pierce who hit .363 with three home runs last year.

Right-handed pitcher Zach Godley, a transfer from Spartanburg Methodist who stands at 6-3, 240, posted a 6-1 record and a 1.51 ERA in 41.2 innings in 2010, while Indian River Community College (Fla.) transfer T.J. Thornton, a 6-3 southpaw, went 6-5 with a 3.83 ERA in 77.2 frames spanning 15 appearances.

Possibly the most decorated of UT's junior college signees is catcher/first baseman Davis Morgan from Johnson County Community College in Kansas. He hit at a staggering .442 clip with 22 home runs and 92 RBIs last season en route to being named the Jayhawk Conference Most Valuable Player and JCCC Male Athlete of the year.

The final two junior college signees both come from within the state borders as 6-1 lefty and Knoxville native Kevin Greene played at Cleveland State and catcher Wes Walker spent two years at Walters State following a prep career in Seymour, Tenn.

For the fourth straight year, fall drills will be highlighted by the annual Orange & White World Series, a best-of-seven intrasquad competition. The Volunteers will be divided into two teams via a draft, with one squad coached by infielders coach Ash Lawson and the other led by pitching coach Jason Beverlin. All seven contests will take place at UT's Lindsey-Nelson Stadium and will be played regardless of the series outcome. Fan attendance at the World Series games is encouraged and attendance is free.

The first three games of the series will take place at 6 p.m. on Sept. 17, Sept. 24 and Oct. 1, respectively. The fourth contest is set to begin at 4 p.m. on Oct. 3. Following a 12-day break, the series will continue at 6 p.m. on Oct. 15 and 2 p.m. on Oct. 17. The seventh and final game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 22.

2010-11 Baseball Newcomers
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. B/T Hometown/Previous School
Ethan Bennett C 6-1 210 R/R Knoxville, Tenn./Farragut
Blake Berger C 6-0 195 R/R Jacksonville, Fla./Mandarin
Levi Dean RHP 6-4 215 R/R Centralia, Wash./Lower Columbia College
Nathan Foriest LHP 6-1 205 L/L Kingston Springs, Tenn./Harpeth
Ryan Gallardo C 5-11 215 S/R Roswell, Ga./Alpharetta
Zach Godley RHP 6-3 240 R/R Bamberg, S.C./Spartanburg Methodist
Kevin Greene LHP 6-1 170 L/L Knoxville, Tenn./Cleveland State CC
Tyler Horne 1B/3B 6-2 210 R/R Newnan, Ga./Shelton State CC
Hunter Mitchem C 5-10 160 R/R Murfreesboro, Tenn./Blackman
Davis Morgan C/1B 6-1 225 R/R Overland Park, Kansas/Johnson County CC
Hooper Paty C 6-0 195 R/R Nashville, Tenn./Ole Miss
Jerod Peper RHP/1B 6-5 225 R/R Adair, Okla./Seminole State College
Chris Pierce 2B 5-10 180 R/R Kalama, Wash./Lower Columbia College
T.J. Thornton LHP 6-3 200 L/L Lake Worth, Fla./Indian River CC
Andrew Toles OF 5-10 185 R/R Fayetteville, Ga./Sandy Creek
Wes Walker C 5-11 190 R/R Seymour, Tenn./Walters State CC
Carter Watson RHP 6-2 195 R/R Murfreesboro, Tenn./Siegel
Nick Williams RHP 6-1 235 R/R Knoxville, Tenn./Farragut

2010 Orange and White World Series Schedule
Game Date Time
Game One Fri., Sept. 17 6 p.m.
Game Two Fri., Sept. 24 6 p.m.
Game Three Fri., Oct. 1 6 p.m.
Game Four Sun., Oct. 3 4 p.m.
Game Five Fri., Oct. 15 6 p.m.
Game Six Sun., Oct. 17 2 p.m.
Game Seven Fri., Oct. 22 6 p.m.