There are two ways to view Tennessee's play away from Lindsey Nelson Stadium this baseball season heading into Friday night's NCAA tournament opener against Charlotte in the Clemson Regional.
The Vols are seeded second in the regional and will carry a 38-19 record that is bolstered by a 33-5 mark at home into their matchup against the third-seeded 49ers (34-26). Tennessee's 5-14 record away from Knoxville includes three neutral-site games, with the third being last week's 3-0 loss to Texas A&M in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament in Hoover, Alabama.
Before heading to Hoover, the Vols won two of three games at South Carolina, including a 12-1 romp in the regular-season finale.
"In terms of this team being on the road, I think there is some confidence in that they've been at three (LSU, Arkansas and South Carolina) of the most tradition-based SEC programs in the history of the conference and have seen what that looks like and experienced it, some good and some bad," Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said earlier this week in a news conference. "Ultimately, we put together the pieces of the puzzle to win a series at South Carolina, who's hosting their own regional.
"I think there is confidence through the adversity part of it and also parallel to our team's evolving and slightly improving day in and day out."
Tennessee went 3-3 in its past six SEC road games after going 1-8 in the first nine.
The Vols and 49ers play at 6 p.m. on ESPNU, with top-seeded Clemson (43-17) and fourth-seeded Lipscomb (36-24) opening the regional Friday afternoon at 1. Friday's two losing teams will play at noon Saturday in an elimination game, while Friday's winners will vie Saturday night at 6.
"We haven't really proven ourselves on the road for the season," Vols junior pitcher Chase Dollander said. "Coming off South Carolina and having that series win and then getting bounced in Hoover, we've been able to refocus on what we need to do. Our record is 0-0, and we need to go out and throw our best stuff and play our best baseball in order to win."
Said senior left fielder Jared Dickey: "Hosting it last year was really fun in front of all of our fans. This will be a different atmosphere, but as long as we go in with confidence and the approach I know we're capable of, I feel pretty confident."
Tennessee has won six consecutive NCAA regional games, defeating Wright State in dramatic fashion and then Liberty twice to advance in 2021. Last season's Vols whipped Alabama State, Campbell and Georgia Tech by the combined score of 31-13.
"It's certainly a different dynamic," Vitello said. "It's a four-team tournament. Our job is to manage the things that we can, whether that's our time in the cage or body language or handling adversity once the game starts."
Andrew Lindsey is scheduled to start for the Vols, so the junior will be pitching against his former team.
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