Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee baseball defeated Clemson 6-5 in 14 innings in a Saturday night thriller at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed the pitching of Chase Burns and Seth Halvorsen, the clutch hitting of his team and much more.
Here’s everything Vitello had to say following the win.
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“Nothing intelligent to say. Plus you all are probably wanting to get home. Just appreciative to be part of that thing. It was special for both sides. There are a lot of plays you can analyze if you want to. They all make up one crazy game. Probably both teams could have had six or seven players at this table. I think it is fitting that the two guys that were selected for whatever reason to be up here, the guy to the left was incredible on the mound but the presence was more incredible than anything. He hasn’t been starting. I think he ended up at about 100 pitches. I tried to take him out, but he gave me the Heisman. I went back to the dugout. At one point in the dugout, he has got Austen Jaslove, who had a big play for us, massaging his arm. I had never seen that before. It was, ‘I want to do this for the team. I want this for the team.’ Obviously, laid it on the line and picked up his buddy (Chase Dollander) and then (Seth Halvorsen) took the ball from him and did what we did. The guy to the right of me, he comes in, it is his first year in our program. Despite knowing the kid, it was not a pretty fall. It just wasn’t. It was a tough one. Our team has kind of moved forward and formed its own personality. We have come together. That has kind of mirrored his time at our place. It has been awesome to see him start to shine through with his personality and get more comfortable. As he has done that, he has become a better player. But to hell with that, it is just more fun to come to work and be around him. I am appreciative for being part of the game. I am pretty appreciative to be around the kids I get to be around.”
On Tennessee’s mental fortitude compared to earlier in the season
“I think again it shows progress. That is what you want. It is tough. I spoke with my dad. I don’t know what he did, but all the teams he coached in different sports, they always seemed to peak at the end of the year. There is no recipe for that. You might play your best stat sheet game somewhere in the middle of the year, but really if you could map it out, both teams that played in that game — Clemson and ourselves, I have heard announcers compare the both of us as teams that didn’t start out great and had to find out who plays this position and who goes where. It just makes it more rewarding at the end. To me, it would have been rewarding — it sounds crazy and I don’t know what they had to say, but you can’t be upset with your effort, either team. My words to the team would have been the same win or lose after that thing.”
On what he saw from the offense in the ninth inning
“It won’t be a great answer but to me that guy (Caden Grice) did the same as our pitchers. He was past, and I don’t want to speak for him, I don’t think you’d say he’s past E but there was a lot that went into the build up to that of battling and obviously he had a lot of strikeouts, I don’t know how many, but he always has a lot of strikeouts when he pitches. It was reminiscent of some other lineups we had— double digit strikeouts— our guys made sure that they had competitive at-bats and eventually we were saying in the dugout we’re going to get to this guy. Again, not many have and that sets the table for Zane to be in a position to do what he did. If I’m not mistaken, it’s been a long night, two strikes and he’s been known to take a hack and it was just a good, short to the ball and fight. I think it’s 0-2 and he gets it back to 2-2 and he and I have had a conversation before, and I’m not trying to take any credit, but sometimes as a hitter when you miss your pitch and don’t get to take your A hack you have to reset and he did that and got himself in a position to be in that type of count and then a good short punch. He’s hit a lot of them over the fence and Coach Elander joked all fall long, cause he hit a bunch in the fall, that he’s glad he’s doing it wearing our color orange because he’s done it often.”
On how many times he considered taking Chase Burns out
“To be honest with you we had a conversation before the game, I was just waiting for, it was his game. It was going to be the combination of two guys that are first rounders (and) that are going to have lengthy careers in the big leagues not just because of their stuff but how they go about their business. That was what we thought of as our best punch and we were going to start Halvy later in the deal if we needed to. Obviously we didn’t fall off with his stuff. Just expected him to come to me and when he did he said to get Halvy hot but I can get the team a few more outs. Again, Halvy was pretty sharp but to me the difference might have been, in the entire game, those extra outs when we were wanting to take him out and then a couple extra too when you (Chase) refuse to leave the game.”
On the 10th inning
“I think we had a bases loaded punch-out and then a double play. I mean, you make the decision to play the guys back and that comes from Coach A (Anderson). Those two guys (Ahuna and Moore) turned a hell of a double play. It was hard-workers working hard for a hard-worker.”
On managing a game of that nature
“I mentioned my Dad and the first thing he said — I thought congrats was coming — and he said he would have done a lot of things differently. I said the same thing. Once the game is over, I think both sides would be wasting their time saying this pitch or this play — at no point in that game was there a lack of effort. When you have young guys out there, there’s going to be some goofy things happen, some good things and some bad things. But a lot of that stuff is kind of talked about. We had several different meetings the last two days trying to envision scenarios. We’re towards the end of the year and we had to go through a process we didn’t have to go through on certain occasions with our teams in the past, where we had to figure out who can do what and who can’t. We trust all these guys. There’s some guys who haven’t pitched yet and some guys who haven’t swung the bat. Obviously we trust our two catchers.
“You talking about managing the game. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least bring it up. Check the resume, man. I’m talking about Frank (Anderson). I joked with Kyle Peterson the other day because Kyle Peterson came to talk to a few people and I said talk to him. He’s the one that gets it done. The resume is pretty strong and to have to sit there and call pitches throughout that game — I know Burnsy was calling his own game at times — for that length has to be stressful on both sides.”
On if that was Tennessee’s best defensive game of the season
“I don’t know. I’ll take it if you’re going to call it out like that. I know these guys punched a lot of guys out, too, and the guy to the right of me (Zane Denton) made a couple of really nice plays coming in and getting the ball. You know, double plays have been at a premium for us. We have two pretty athletic guys in the middle of the field, and maybe this will start a little trend for those two guys.”
On Seth Halvorsen
“That occurred earlier in the year. Him and (Zach) Joyce, the way they kind of battled back — and obviously Joyce may have had a little bit of a setback — but Halvy has kind of continued to get better and better as he’s gone. I’ll say this: He’s so fiery — and I joked about Christian Moore last night — but Halvy is the same way in that he’s so fiery that, and maybe it’s my fault because follow the leader, sometimes the energy goes in the wrong directions. Tonight, and Clemson did the same thing, our guys were so keyed in on helping each other and picking each other up. There were some painful moments on offense, but guys were quick to pick each other up. Pitchers went back out there and got it done even though we squandered an opportunity to score. You got the best version of some of our guys, including Halvy, when their focused on competing and getting the job done for their mates.”
On the SEC preparing them for the atmosphere and ending Clemson’s 17-game win streak
“In Hoover, there is pain in the air for the Vols, Vol fans included that made the trip. Our tournament is unique because you get a one-and-done, but the comment I made was the league prepares you. So does the ACC. The crowds we had to play in front of, I shouldn’t say because now I’ll hear something new tomorrow, but I’ve kind of heard about everything myself. I don’t know if these guys agree with that. It’s right on par. We feel great about our league in all sports, and you stick your chest out, but it is the same deal. There is a long list of tradition here. Coach Leggett being in the dugout. It’s been about the same.”
“Baseball is a game of percentages. Maybe we got lucky because they have had a long streak, but I think you got the clash you did because regardless of how the last few games have gone, you have two teams that are playing for each other and continually getting better.”