The roller coaster analogy really doesn't fit when describing Camden Sewell's career as a University of Tennessee pitcher.
Sewell has been consistent and solid all four seasons for a program that steadily has gone in the same direction — up. Yet the 6-foot-4, 185-pound former Cleveland High School standout quickly admits the surreal feeling that has accompanied both last year's surge to the College World Series and this season's ascension to a 31-2 record and a No. 1 ranking.
"At times it definitely can feel that way, but obviously last year we fell short, and we still have that bitter taste in our mouths of going two-and-out in Omaha," Sewell said. "Every team but one every year ends with a loss, and that kind of stuck with us. This year has felt different, and we have a lot of guys who are playing with each other really well.
"The biggest thing that sticks out is that we have won a few games pretty handily and didn't play very well in them, so some of them have felt like losses. That mindset has stuck with us."
Sewell has made 59 career appearances for the Volunteers, amassing an 11-3 record and a 2.54 earned run average.
Tennessee had not qualified for the NCAA tournament for 13 consecutive seasons when Sewell arrived in Knoxville, and he went 4-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 20 games as a freshman in 2019. The Vols went 40-21 that season under second-year coach Tony Vitello and ended the program's postseason drought, and Tennessee's 2020 team was 15-2 when the outbreak of the coronavirus halted the sports world.
Last season's Vols had racked up a 50-16 record before their shorter than desired CWS stint, with Sewell going 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 23 appearances. That included a start against Florida in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament, when he allowed two hits in six innings during a 4-0 triumph.
Sewell was in the mix for a starting role this season, but Vitello went with freshman Chase Burns, sophomore and Georgia Southern transfer Chase Dollander and freshman Drew Beam, a trio that will enter this weekend's series against visiting Alabama with a combined 19-0 record.
"This year has been very unique," Sewell said. "We have a lot of good arms, so when you get your opportunity, you've just got to have fun and make the most of it. If something goes south, we have a lot of guys who will pick you up.
"Everyone feeds off each other, and with our starters throwing as well as they have lately, there are limited innings, so you've got to make it count whenever you get in."
Sewell has appeared in 15 games this season, all in relief, posting a 3-1 record with a 2.53 ERA. He has tallied 25 strikeouts and yielded just four walks, most recently working scoreless eighth and ninth innings during Tuesday's 3-2 upset loss to Tennessee Tech in Smokies Park.
Hard-throwing reliever Ben Joyce took the loss that night, with Sewell getting saddled with Tennessee's other setback, which was the 7-2 loss to No. 1 Texas in Houston on March 4. Sewell allowed three runs on three hits in just a third of an inning against the Longhorns, and he had another hiccup in the 4-3 win at Ole Miss on March 27, yielding a single and a two-run home run in consecutive at-bats.
"They were good experiences," Sewell said. "In both of those games, I was trying to be too good or too perfect instead of doing what I needed to do. It kind of caught up to me pretty good in those two instances. At the end of the day, it's a game of ups and downs, so how you respond is the biggest key to everything."
Said Vitello of Sewell immediately after the loss to the Longhorns: "He was going a lot faster than he normally does out there. I think he was just a little jacked up."
Opponents are hitting only .234 this season off of Sewell, who has been a part of Tennessee teams that have racked up a 136-43 record since his arrival. The Vols were just 109-106 in the previous four seasons, which included a wretched 39-78 mark in league play, but they are hosting the Crimson Tide as the only SEC team ever to start 12-0 in conference contests.
"I love this place, and Coach V is the best that I've ever seen do it," Sewell said. "His personality is something else, and as a player, there is nobody I would rather play for. He does a great job at what he does, and it's fun to be around the park every day. He's just really fun to be around.
"For anybody who's younger, this is the place that you want to be."