KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The 2020 baseball season is right around the corner and leading up to Opening Day, UTSports.com will preview each position group for this year’s team.
First up are Tennessee’s pitchers.
The Volunteers will have to replace a trio of talented right-handed pitchers that were selected in last year’s MLB Draft in Garrett Stallings, Zach Linginfelter and Andrew Schultz, as well as Will Neely, who made 68 appearances and started 37 games over his four-year career.
However, UT returns plenty of experienced arms, led by projected first-round draft pick Garrett Crochet. The Big Orange return seven pitchers who saw action last season while also adding a talented group of newcomers to the mix.
Returners (Listed Numerically)
#11 Will Heflin: LHP – Senior – 5-11 / 175 – Morristown, Tenn.
Career Stats (3 Seasons): 8-4, 3.86 ERA, 55 APP, 6 GS, 86.1 IP, 71 K, 45 BB, 1.53 WHIP
Heflin enters 2020 as one of the Vols most reliable bullpen arms after having the best season of his career in 2019. The crafty lefty went 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 26 appearances for the Big Orange while posting career bests in strikeouts (35), appearances and ERA.
The Morristown native is expected to miss part of the season as he recovers from a knee injury sustained in the fall but should be back for the heart of conference play. Heflin will likely be one of Tennessee’s top options out of the pen and also had the ability to start if needed.
#16 Camden Sewell: RHP – Sophomore – 6-4 / 176 – Cleveland, Tenn.
Career Stats (1 Season): 4-1, 2.18 ERA, 20 APP, 5 GS, 1 SV, 45.1 IP, 43 K, 22 BB, 1.13 WHIP
Sewell is coming off an exceptional freshman season in 2019. The lanky right hander posted a 4-1 record and 2.18 ERA, which was the lowest by a true freshman in program history. Sewell was an important piece of the Vols’ bullpen and also made five starts last season. In his first-career start, Sewell pitched six innings of shutout ball, allowing just one hit in a win over Middle Tennessee.
The Cleveland, Tennessee native, is in contention for a spot in the weekend rotation this season and could also be a valuable piece of the bullpen once again.
#18 Chase Wallace: RHP – Junior – 6-2 / 195 – Sevierville, Tenn.
Career Stats (2 Seasons): 1-1, 2.57 ERA, 25 APP, 0 GS, 3 SV, 35.0 IP, 23 K, 24 BB, 1.31 WHIP
Wallace was exclusively used as a relief pitcher during his first two seasons with the Vols but has parlayed a solid summer in the prestigious Cape Code League and an impressive showing during fall ball into a potential starting role.
The junior from nearby Sevierville was expected to be one of UT’s top relief pitchers last season but made just nine appearances after being hampered by injuries. Wallace recorded a team-leading three saves and held opposing hitters to a .179 batting average as a freshman in 2018 while posting a 1-1 record and a 2.86 ERA.
#28 Elijah Pleasants: RHP – Sophomore – 6-5 / 185 – Clarksville, Tenn.
Career Stats (1 Season): 0-0, 2.45 ERA, 11 APP, 1 GS, 11.0 IP, 5 K, 7 BB, 0.82 WHIP
After being used sparingly as a freshman in 2019, look for Pleasants to take on a bigger role this season as a sophomore. The Clarksville, Tennessee native, was effective in his limited playing time last year, posting a 2.45 ERA while holding opponents to just two hits in 11.0 innings of work. Pleasants could see time as a midweek starter as well as out of the bullpen for the Vols deep pitching staff in 2020.
#32 Sean Hunley: RHP – Junior – 6-4 / 210 – Mount Juliet, Tenn.
Career Stats (2 Seasons): 11-3, 2.63 ERA, 35 APP, 19 GS, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 1 SV, 120.0 IP, 82 K, 30 BB, 1.19 WHIP
Hunley has been one of the Vols most productive and versatile pitchers over the past two seasons, having spent time as a midweek and weekend starter as well as an important reliever. The Mount Juliet, Tennessee native, posted a solid sophomore season after an outstanding freshman campaign that saw him earn Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Freshman All-America honors in 2018.
Hunley’s 11 career wins are the most of any returning pitcher on the team. The junior right hander posted a perfect 4-0 record and a 2.60 ERA in 45.0 innings of work while splitting time as a starter and relief pitcher last season. Hunley will battle for a spot in the weekend rotation this season but could prove to be a vital piece of UT’s bullpen as well.
#34 Garrett Crochet: LHP – Junior – 6-6 / 218 – Ocean Springs, Miss.
Career Stats (2 Seasons): 10-9, 4.76 ERA, 35 APP, 12 GS, 4 SV, 128.2 IP, 143 K, 48 BB, 1.42 WHIP
Crochet enters his junior campaign as Tennessee’s projected ace and Friday-night starter after showing flashes of dominance during his first two seasons on Rocky Top. The Ocean Springs, Mississippi native, made 18 appearances and struck out 81 batters in 65.0 innings pitched in 2019. Crochet started the season in the bullpen before eventually working his way into the weekend rotation during SEC play, finishing the year with a 5-3 record as well as three saves.
The powerful left hander was rated as the No. 10 overall prospect for the 2020 MLB Draft by MLB.com back in December and has been projected as a potential top-10 pick by numerous outlets. He was also named a preseason third team All-American by Perfect Game earlier this month. During his two seasons on Rocky Top, Crochet has appeared in 35 games while making 12 starts and has recorded 10 wins, four saves and 143 strikeouts.
#46 Redmond Walsh: LHP – Redshirt Junior – 5-10 / 170 – Louisville, Tenn.
Career Stats (2 Seasons): 2-2, 1.56 ERA, 43 APP, 0 GS, 9 SV, 63.1 IP, 64 K, 17 BB, 1.14 WHIP
After a solid redshirt freshman season in 2018, Walsh broke out in a big way last year, cementing himself as one of the top closers in the conference. Walsh’s 1.38 ERA was the lowest on the team and his career ERA of 1.56 is the best of any returning pitcher for the Vols. He also led the team with nine saves, which is tied for the fifth most in a single season in program history. His four saves in league play were tied for sixth in the SEC.
In 2019, the Louisville, Tennessee native, set career bests in ERA, wins (two), appearances (27), innings pitched (45.2), saves, strikeouts (48) and opponent batting average (.232) on the way to earning ABCA/Rawlings All-South Region Second Team honors. Walsh is expected to open this season as UT’s closer.
Newcomers (Listed Numerically)
#12 Drew Gilbert: LHP – Freshman – 5-9 / 170 – Stillwater, Minn.
Gilbert was one of the highest rated recruits in the 2019 signing class after a standout prep career at Stillwater High School. The hard-throwing left hander was selected in the 35th round by the Minnesota Twins in the 2019 MLB Draft and was the No. 10 rated left-handed pitcher in the nation by Prep Baseball Report. Gilbert was a two-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American as well as a Gatorade Player of the Year finalist in 2018.
In 2018, Gilbert earned All-State honors after leading Stillwater High to the Class 4A State Championship, where he threw a complete-game shutout in the title game, scattering three hits in seven innings while striking out 15 batters. Gilbert was also an excellent hitter and outfielder during his prep career and could be a two-way player while at Tennessee.
#15 Kody Davidson: RHP – Junior – 5-9 / 170 – South Fulton, Tenn.
Davidson comes to Tennessee by way of Walters State Community College, where he helped lead the Senators to the NJCAA College World Series in 2019. The South Fulton, Tennessee native, was 6-2 with a pair of saves in 15 appearances (eight starts) while posting a 4.11 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 46.0 innings pitched.
Prior to his time at Walters State, Davidson spent his freshman year at Dyersburg State College, where he posted a team best 8-4 record and led the team with 87 strikeouts, five complete games and three shutouts. Davidson was a two-sport athlete at South Fulton High School where he also played on the football team. He was the 2016 District 14-A Pitcher of the Year and also rushed for over 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons.
#20 Connor Housley: RHP – Freshman – 6-4 / 170 – Tyrone, Ga.
Housley was a four-year letterwinner at Sandy Creek High School, where he was a first-team All-Region and All-County selection as a senior. The freshman right hander was a top 500 rated player nationally by Perfect Game and the No. 74 rated player in the state of Georgia. Housley was also a Perfect Game Preseason All-American in 2019. As a senior, he threw four complete games and racked up 65 strikeouts in just 41.0 innings pitched.
#25 Christian Delashmit: RHP – Freshman – 6-3 / 195 – Covington, Tenn.
Delashmit was a standout pitcher for Covington High School, where he helped lead the Chargers to three consecutive state tournament appearances and a Class 2A State Title in 2019. He was a top 500 rated player nationally by Perfect Game and the No. 22 rated player in the state of Tennessee. Delashmit was a three-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American and a two-time All-State selection.
#26 Jason Rackers: RHP – Junior – 6-7 / 246 – Jefferson City, Mo.
Rackers comes to Tennessee after two seasons at junior college powerhouse Jefferson College, where he helped lead the Vikings to 101 wins over the past two years. The imposing right hander went 8-3 with a 3.97 ERA, two complete games and 82 strikeouts in 65.2 innings pitched in 2019.
Rackers earned NJCAA All-Region XVI second team honors after an impressive freshman campaign in 2018. The Jefferson City, Missouri native, was 11-1 on the year with a 2.63 ERA and tossed four complete games to help the Vikings reach the NJCAA Division I College World Series. He also racked up 103 strikeouts and issued just 23 walks in 82.0 innings of work. Rackers could be a key contributor as a starter or reliever for the Vols this season.
#31 Jackson Leath: RHP – Junior – 6-1 / 181 – Waxahachie, Texas
Leath is another addition from the junior college ranks who has a chance to make an instant impact on the mound this season. The junior right hander earned NJCAA Region XIV All-Conference honors in 2019 after starting 10 games and posting a 5-2 record while striking out 61 batters over 61.1 innings of work at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. His 2.93 ERA ranked third on the team and his three complete games led the Buccaneers. As a freshman, Leath made eight relief appearances and finished with a 2-1 record. He could see time as a starter and reliever this season for the Orange and White.
#33 Mark McLaughlin: RHP – Freshman – 6-3 / 200 – Johns Creek, Ga.
McLaughlin was a three-year letterwinner at Northview High School and the No. 249 rated player in the country by Perfect Game. The freshman right hander was a 2019 Perfect Game Preseason All-American and All-Southeast Region team selection. He was also chosen to play in the MLB East Coast Pro Showcase during his prep career.
#35 Kirby Connell: LHP – Freshman – 5-10 / 195 – Blacksburg, S.C.
Connell comes to Tennessee after a decorated prep career in South Carolina and Missouri. The freshman lefty was a four-time All-State selection and a three-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American. Connell was the South Carolina Coaches Association Class 2A Player of the Year in 2018 and earned back-to-back All-Region Player of the Year and Diamond Prospects 2A Player of the Year awards in 2018 and 2019 while at Blacksburg High School.
Connell spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at Butler High School in Missouri, where he set numerous records during career, including state records for single-season ERA (0.00) and consecutive innings pitched without an earned run allowed (59.1). He helped lead Butler High to a 22-3 record and their first-ever district title as a sophomore. Over his four-year prep career, Connell posted 13 shutouts and threw five no-hitters while posting 27-5 record with a 0.29 ERA and 434 strikeouts. He also put up huge numbers at the plate with a career .396 batting average, 101 runs scored, 15 home runs and 82 RBI.
#36 Chad Dallas: RHP – Sophomore – 5-11 / 208 – Orange, Texas
Dallas spent his freshman year of college at Panola College in Carthage, Texas, where he was one of the team’s top pitchers. Dallas posted a perfect 5-0 record on the year while leading Panola’s pitching staff with a 1.15 ERA. He recorded 71 strikeouts (16.38 K/9) for the season despite ranking fifth on the team with just 39.0 innings pitched.
The sophomore right hander played his prep baseball at West Orange-Stark High School in Orange, Texas. Dallas earned Texas Sports Writers Association All-State second-team honors in 2017 and was a three-time All-District selection. He was also named Orange County’s Most Valuable Player as a senior in 2018 after allowing just four earned runs for the entire year while also batting .410 at the plate. Dallas helped lead West Orange-Stark to the state semifinals as a freshman and starred on the football team as well, helping the team win a state title in 2016.
#38 Ethan Anderson: RHP – Freshman – 6-2 / 180 – Woodstock, Ga.
Anderson starred at River Ridge High School in Woodstock, Georgia. He was a four-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American and was No. 188 rated player in the country according to Perfect Game. He was a two-time Georgia Class 6A All-State selection and was also a gifted hitter for the Knights, winning the Silver Slugger Award in 2018 after batting .395 with seven home runs and 63 RBI. Anderson could also see time in the outfield for UT this season.
#41 Will Mabrey: LHP – Freshman – 6-0 / 181 – Cookeville, Tenn.
Mabrey played his prep ball for Upperman High School in Baxter, Tennessee and is the first baseball player from the school to ever sign with an SEC program. Mabrey was the No. 6 rated left-handed pitcher in the state of Tennessee by Perfect Game and was a two-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American. The freshman lefty was named District Pitcher of the Year in 2019 after posting a perfect 7-0 record with a 0.15 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 46.2 innings of work, setting school records for wins, ERA and strikeouts in the process.