Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee baseball run ruled Alabama A&M 10-0 in eight innings Tuesday evening in the Vols’ home opener.
The Vols used four different pitchers who shut out the Bulldogs while a balanced hitting effort led to the double digit offensive performance.
Here’s everything Tony Vitello said after the win.
More From RTI: Watch Tony Vitello Discuss Tennessee’s Win Over Alabama A&M
On Jake Fitzgibbons outing, bouncing back from consecutive walks
“As an athlete things can speed up on you and the key is — and that’s going to happen to everybody, but can you refocus, reset or just try to calm the storm a little bit and you saw him take a couple deep breaths, maintain his compose and get right back into the zone. The bottom line is when he’s in the zone he’s one of our best guys as it relates too— I don’t really look at swing and miss rates that much and things like that— but he’s got about as good of stuff as anyone, especially on the left side of the mound, so if he continues to pour it in the zone, he’ll have success this year. For him and everyone else, there will be moment where you’re not at your best or you give up a home run or a walk. Can you get back dialed in? He did that tonight. That was the best part.”
On why Hollis Fanning started the game on the mound
“That fall World Series deal was pretty good for us when (Fitzgibbons) started, but Hollis has kind of shown he’s assured strikes. Ironically in the first inning technically a couple of free bases. First of all, we don’t want to hit guys to harm anybody. But when you do hit a guy, you’d like it to be a pitch that just wasn’t located where you wanted, but it had conviction to it and that pitch wasn’t very good that he threw up there, but a much better second inning and kind of showed some of the stuff he showed us in scrimmages where we started him a bunch and was very reliable as it relates to strike.”
On junior catcher Cal Stark’s defense in his first couple of games
“I hate to say it, but the season starts and you start to get a different look at guys, so if I’m at home and am a fan or even one of you guys and you hear me say ‘we don’t quite know what our best lineup is,’ or ‘best outfield combination,’ this, that — you could say, ‘well, what have you been doing during practice?’ They’re teenage kids, some of them. Games are different. You’d like guys to practice the way they play in games and vice versa, but games are different. He seems to be better in games than even he is in practice. We knew defensively he was fully-capable and offensively, he showed us as he got here, he could be pretty good. He just keeps getting better and better offensively. No wind or definitely if the wind is blowing out, he’s probably got a couple homers tonight.”
On what he saw from freshman RHP AJ Russell in his first career appearance
“It was great. For a freshman, I don’t say it out loud but I’m feeling it internally when a guy has the ball in his hand how I’m feeling and he made me feel comfortable. Just with his presence, the way the ball was coming out. He’s always thrown strikes we know that’s coming but just made me feel good about wearing this uniform. That’s the best way I can compliment him. He has a bright bright future but if he were to hear me say that he should probably shrug it off a little bit and say the future is now. He’s really good and puts a little meat on those bones and continues to work with Frank (Anderson), he could be pretty special.”
On how good it was to empty the bench and see some guys get hits
“Phenomenal. Dylan (Dreiling) had a great at-bat (on Saturday) against who I believe will be Grand Canyon’s Friday guy and did in a full-count, in a pressure situation. He’s a good hitter. He’s talented, so you kind of expect good things from him.
“KT (Kavares Tears) and (Ryan) Miller, when it’s your first at-bat and you’ve been waiting an extended amount of time, KT came back in the dugout and said ‘I’ve been waiting on that for two years’ and what he meant was to be standing up there but then to execute that as those two guys did— I don’t care what the situation is, it’s pretty impressive and something they should take a lot of pride in because we’re doing this interview in the cages and I don’t think anybody beats KT on the swings and Miller is one of the guys that would be close. If Miller weren’t a catcher where he’s spending a ton of time in the bullpen, maybe he could match KT swing for swing in here.”
On how difficult it will be to keep Dreiling, Tears and Miller out of the lineup
“I think it’s difficult just to write the lineup up there (in his office). A couple years ago, we went to Round Rock and it was the third weekend of the year. The first two weekends we kind of experimented and then we called that third weekend almost treat it like a regional or do or die. Must wins. The first two, three games, we kind of treated them as must wins when making out the lineup, so you’re going to kind of lean towards experience when you’re not quite sure when you know a guy can be good, but you don’t know how he’s going to be in his first go-around. But as guys start to get the first one out of the way, you can kind of start mixing and matching a little more freely. We now have 14 games remaining if I’m not mistaken before SEC play. They’re all at home. We need to leave no stone unturned. I know I say that a lot, but with this team more than any, we need to leave no stone unturned.”
On the latest with shortstop Maui Ahuna
“No I don’t have a specific update. I know professionals from different entities are working on it, which makes me feel as good as I can and hopefully him as good as he can about it. People that are way more professional than me and a lot of people that are looking out for the kid’s sole interest. Hopefully, an update soon but I don’t have something specific now.”
On how Maui Ahuna is handling the situation
“Like a champ. I almost cussed. That is goal one when doing any of these interviews. Like a dang champ. He has been really good about getting extra work in (the cages) and on the field because he knows he is not going to be burning a bunch of calories out there. He has been (Austen Jaslove’s) No. 1 fan. Next to him in warmups, if you guys are here in time, you see what he is doing there. Then he is just a fun-loving kid in general. Then I thought his family handled it as well as they could this past weekend, too. I don’t know if that is right for me to speak on. Maybe if you guys talk to him, he kind of has something else going on, too, with family stuff. It would be nice if everybody could get healthy then we could go forward and continue to enjoy being around him.”
On what he saw from the top of the lineup
“Jared Dickey is such a high-energy guy. You see it in everything he does. It’s kind of cool because he didn’t use to be like that. He’s transitioned a lot of things and now he’s a super high-energy guy. I think it probably hurt him a little bit last weekend. Probably the last kid on our roster I’d ever want to say anything negative about, but I think it hurt him that he was a little too amped up last weekend. He had a little more calm to him (tonight). So, when your leadoff guy is on base or one of your leaders ignites some things, then you’ve got other guys behind him in a good position to do damage, which the two or three guys behind him are incredibly talented.”
On when they learned about the situation with Ahuna
“Specifically for me, it was I would say about 24 hours before first pitch when we were in Arizona.”
On if they knew it was possible
“Yeah, there had been some things that alluded to that a little bit.”
On the pitching staff having 12 strikeouts tonight
“When you’ve got good arms, that’s something that will happen if you throw it in the zone. We spoke on Fitz, but heck, (Jacob) Bimbi has as good a stuff as he does really. It’s a different look but when you’re in the zone, that’s going to happen. Kudos to the pitching staff as it relates to that strikeout number.”