The first two years of Zander Sechrist’s college baseball career have been filled with some thrills that are hard to match.
That’s why the left-handed pitcher out of Flowery Branch High decided to play at the University of Tennessee.
A trip to the College World Series in 2021.
An SEC Championship for the top-ranked Volunteers (57-9) in 2022.
“Personally, this season went very well for me,” said Sechrist, who finished with a 4-0 mark and 1.67 ERA on the mound for Tennessee.
However, it’s the unfinished business that will keep Sechrist from getting complacent.
Ranked No. 1 this season, Tennessee stumbled in the Super Regional — the last step before the College World Series — to Notre Dame, losing the deciding Game 3 of the series 7-3 Sunday in Knoxville.
“It really hit us hard losing,” Sechrist said, just a few days removed from the season ending. “We were so tight this year and had a great culture going.”
However, a young pitching rotation for Tennessee will fuel Sechrist as he returns to Hall County for the summer, preparing for another run at Omaha in 2023.
This summer will be key for the 20-year-old lefty who will become draft eligible after next season.
With ample experience under his belt, Sechrist has adjusted nicely to playing in the best conference of college baseball.
And he said there’s no substitute for pitching in front of a packed house, more than 4,000 fans every night, for home games at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“It’s an unreal environment,” Sechrist said. “Honestly, it’s energizing to be able to feed off the energy of all the fans.”
This season, Sechrist threw 43 innings — a substantial bump up from 2021 — and surrendered 27 hits.
Against East Tennessee State, Sechrist had his best outing with a crisp six-strikeout performance over 4 2/3 innings in a win March 1.
Two weeks later, he would record seven strikeouts over five innings in a win against Eastern Kentucky.
Sechrist also picked up wins against Xavier and Bellarmine.
However, there was no substitute for getting the call in the bullpen in the SEC Championship game against Florida.
Even though he didn’t make it out of the eighth inning, Sechrist got a good taste of what it was like to pitch in front of 10,000-plus fans in Hoover, Alabama.
Still, it gave Sechrist a feel for what it will be like to take on more of a leadership role next season, as well as prepare for a possible future in the big leagues.
“The SEC tournament, you have 10 teams all at the same hotel and there’s future big leaguers everywhere,” he said.
The other big thrill for Sechrist was making it to Omaha for the College World Series as a freshman.
It was a repeat trip after going as an 11-year-old to watch the action with his mother.
Sechrist said the learning curve in college was adapting to playing in the SEC.
“No matter who you play, everyone can hit,” Sechrist said. “No. 1-9, they are all there for a reason.”