Baseball Preview: #2 Vols Head West to Open 2023 Season at MLB Desert Invitational

PHOENIX, Ariz. – No. 2 Tennessee opens its highly-anticipated 2023 campaign at the MLB Desert Invitational this weekend with three games in the greater Phoenix area.

The Volunteers kick things off with a challenging weekend slate against the likes of Arizona, Grand Canyon and UC San Diego in three different venues.


Tickets for this weekend’s MLB Desert Invitational can be purchased HERE.


UT’s contests against Arizona and Grand Canyon on Friday and Saturday will be televised on the MLB Network and all three games will also be streamed on, free of charge.

Fans can also listen to the Voice of Tennessee Baseball John Wilkerson call the action for all three games via a free audio stream on and the Tennessee Athletics Gameday App.  


Friday vs. Arizona – 8 p.m. ET (MLB Network)
Salter River Fields at Talking Stick (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Projected Starters: RHP Chase Dollander vs. RHP TJ Nichols

Saturday at Grand Canyon – 8 p.m. ET (MLB Network)
Brazell Field at GCU Ballpark (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Projected Starters: RHP Chase Burns vs. LHP Connor Markl

Sunday vs. UC San Diego – 2 p.m. ET (
Sloan Park (Mesa, Ariz.)
Projected Starters: RHP Drew Beam vs. RHP Michael Mitchell


Vols vs. Arizona
Overall: First Meeting
in Knoxville: 0-0
in Tucson: 0-0
at Neutral Sites: 0-0
Last Meeting: N/A

Vols vs. Grand Canyon
Overall: Vols lead, 3-1
in Knoxville: 2-1
in Phoenix: 1-0
at Neutral Sites: 0-0
Last Meeting: W, 25-8 in Phoenix (Feb. 26, 2016)

Vols vs. UC San Diego
Overall: First Meeting
in Knoxville: 0-0
in San Diego: 0-0
at Neutral Sites: 0-0
Last Meeting: N/A


Preseason Hype
After posting one of the most dominant regular-seasons in college baseball history and coming up one win short of a return trip to the College World Series, Tennessee enters the 2023 season with lofty expectations. The Vols are ranked No. 2 in five of the six major college baseball polls, marking the highest preseason ranking in program history. In 2022, UT was ranked No. 1 in at least one poll during 12 weeks of the season and spent 10 weeks as the nation’s unanimous top-ranked team. The Big Orange were picked to finish atop the SEC Eastern Division after winning the SEC Regular Season and SEC Tournament titles last year.
The Big Orange also boast a program-record seven preseason All-Americans, including a pair of unanimous preseason first-team All-Americans in starting pitchers Chase Dollander and Chase Burns. Tennessee had four players earn preseason All-SEC honors and had four players named to the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List, as well.
Fast Starts & Early Season Success
During Tony Vitello‘s tenure as head coach, the Vols have gotten off the fast starts on a consistent basis and have had unprecedented early-season success. The Big Orange had one of the best starts in NCAA and SEC history last season, going 31-1 in their first 32 games. During that stretch, the Vols won a program-record 23 consecutive games, which was also tied for the second-longest win streak by an SEC team in a single season.
Tennessee has started the season at least 6-0 in each of the past four years and have posted two of the best starts in program history in that span, going 15-0 in 2019 and 13-0 to start the 2020 campaign.
All-American Weekend Rotation
The Vols enter the 2023 season with the nation’s top weekend rotation, returning three All-American arms in Dollander, Burns and Drew Beam. The trio of right handers combined for a 26-3 record last season over 43 starts while totaling 273 strikeouts. All three were tabbed first-team preseason All-Americans by at least one outlet and were named to the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List.
Non-Con Domination
Tennessee has been extremely successful against non-conference opponents since the start of the 2019 season, posting a 94-17 record in that span. In 2022 and 2021, the Vols posted a 53-10 record against out-of-conference opponents, going 28-4 a season ago after posting a 25-6 non-conference record in 2021. Since, 2019, UT has faced just one opponent from the three conferences it will face at the MLB Desert Invitational (Pac-12, WAC, Big West), defeating Stanford, 7-2, at the Round Rock Classic in 2020.


Arizona Wildcats

  • 2022 Record: 39-25 (16-14 Pac-12)
  • 2022 Postseason: NCAA Coral Gables Regional
  • 2023 Big 12 Preseason Poll: 4th
  • Head Coach: Chip Hale (2nd season)
  • Preseason All-Conference Selections (4):
    • OF Chase Davis, INF Nik McClaughry, RHP TJ Nichols, RHP Trevor Long

Grand Canyon Lopes

  • 2022 Record: 41-21 (25-5 WAC)
  • 2022 Postseason: NCAA Stillwater Regional
  • 2023 WAC Preseason Poll: 1st
  • Head Coach: Gregg Wallis (1st season)
  • Preseason All-Conference Selections (4):
    • SS Jacob Wilson, RHP Daniel Avitia, INF Elijah Buries, LHP Connor Markl

UC San Diego Tritons

  • 2022 Record: 24-32 (13-17 Big West)
  • 2022 Postseason: N/A
  • 2023 Big West Preseason Poll: 8th
  • Head Coach: Eric Newman (12th season)
  • Preseason All-Conference Selections (1):
    • INF Jalen Smith


The Vols return to Knoxville for their home opener on Tuesday, Feb. 21 against Alabama A&M at 4:30 p.m., kicking off a 15-game homestand prior to the start of SEC play in mid-March.

Tickets for non-conference home games can be purchased at

-UT Athletics

Vols 1B Blake Burke / Credit: UT Athletics


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