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UT baseball skipper labels Cobb’s 2006 season ‘incredible’

With some pitching skills resembling an average junior college hurler, Craig Cobb used other pitching skills resembling a Cy Young winner against Southeastern Conference batters to lead the Tennessee Volunteers in wins and earned run average in 2006.

“Incredible, he’s just the most incredible pitcher,” UT head coach Rod Delmonico said of the former All-state Farragut Admiral pitcher, whose 9-3 record and 3.31 earned run average led the team despite the Vols’ disappointing 11-18 final SEC record, 31-24 overall.

“He’s one of those guys that shouldn’t be real good, but he is,” Delmonico added. “When I say that [I mean] he doesn’t throw real hard, he doesn’t have a great breaking ball, but he’s got a great change-up and just really knows how to pitch. If I only had a few guys [like Cobb] that had command of the fastball.

“He’s such a competitor. He thinks he should get a shutout every time he goes out, that they should never get a hit off of him. That’s what makes him so great, a fun guy to coach, prepares better than anybody we have. Thank God he’s coming back, we’ve got ’em back next year. Give ’em the ball and see how many he can win next year.”

Despite the struggles of Delmonico's Vols, the Farragut resident and Vol skipper since 1990 became the fourth winningest coach in SEC history (665-371 overall record in 17 seasons). But during the just-completed season the Vols finished 10th in the overall SEC standings, missing the conference tourney.

Two former Farragut Admiral All-state players comprised UT’s young left side of the infield in 2006 as true freshmen.

Tony Delmonico started 54 of UT’s 55 games at shortstop while hitting .335 with three home runs and 36 RBIs.

Third baseman Cody Brown started 44 of the 47 games in which he played, hitting just .221 but significantly improving his fielding during the last half of the season.

As for Tony Delmonico, “I’m never satisfied — that’s my drive, to keep on pushing hard and keep on getting better. Overall, it was a great year — a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “Basically a great learning process. Many people doubted I could play on this level. I just showed them and everybody else who didn’t believe I could do it on the field. I’m proud I could come in and contribute to the little success that we had. We are young and we’ve only going to get better.”

As for areas the freshman shortstop said he needs to improve upon, “my defense got better at the very end [final .912 percentage], I need to stay consistent with that,” Tony Delmonico said, adding three other factors: be more “aggressive” at the plate, “get better in shape,” and “get a little bigger.”

As for Brown’s rookie season, “It was a big learning experience, it was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was up-and-down, but it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot this year so it’ll make me a better player next year.”

Brown said his fielding at third base improved drastically from early in the season thanks to working alongside assistant coach Larry Simcox plus lots of practice [final .926 percentage].

“We work on that every single day, taking extra ground balls ... because that’s the most important parts of the game, pitching and defense,” Brown said. “We got that straightened out. The hitting kinda went down [final .221 average, three home runs, 18 RBIs] but I was really proud of the way I played defense the second half of the season.”


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