Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello. Photo by Ric Butler/Rocky Top Insider.
Tennessee baseball dropped its first midweek game of the season to Boston College 7-6 Tuesday night. The Vols thrice fought back from a one run deficit to tie the game in the final innings but failed to ever take the lead due to poor situational baseball.
Tennessee coach Tony Vitello expressed his frustration for his team’s mistakes, discussed the importance of bouncing back this weekend and much more following the game.
Here’s everything Vitello said.
More From RTI: Takeaways As Tennessee Falls To Boston College
On if it’s more encouraging the way Tennessee fought back or more discouraging from simple mistakes
“Discouraging. The whole effort was. What’s not discouraging is you have a game that simulates a conference game, a regional game, maybe even more so there’s not just lessons learned but they’re kind of in caps or in bold, if you will, highlighted much more than they would be on some other occasions we’ve had this season. As a coach— if I’m going to be honest— it’s not a good feeling to be sitting in the dugout, and your mind always wonders and trust me when the pitch is getting ready to be put in play I think I’m paying attention to that pitch but you have other thoughts that go on during the course of the game and to be a coach standing there saying, if we win this thing how are we going to feel about it? On one end you’re going to feel like holy cow this is a really good team we just beat so you just gobbled up some RPI points and thank goodness we didn’t have to go back to the locker room upset and all that good stuff. But it didn’t look good from where I was standing.”
On what needs to happen to fix the base running and fielding mistakes
“It ain’t more practice and I’m not looking for anybody to say, and they’re not going to after that game if you were in attendance, to give us a gold star for coaching it up. Ask our guys how many times we’re showing videos or going over stuff. Maybe you could fault us in some ways we’ve gone over it too much and made it too complicated. There was one practice where we kind of just said you just have to play the game like a little leaguer. That’s kind of the cliff notes of it. So, no, it’s do you want to win or not and that’s what I said in words in the outfield. That’s what I learned from my dad and all I had on the field. We have guys that are five times a better player than I was and I don’t mean to say “I” or bring me into it. Just speaking with a little emotion to it and you have to want to win. Usually the team that wants to win more wins if there’s two teams with balanced talent. We’re in that part of the schedule, I don’t know some of the non conference opponents that will come here but because we’ve had a coat on when we hit a home run and a couple other times, we’re going to get the type of effort that we saw across the way. Now Boston College, I think is going to have more talent than a lot of teams in the country but the team that’s going to want to win more is going to win so.”
On if it’s easier to learn a lesson after a loss
“I think lessons learned are sometimes cast aside when you get results in the long run. For instance, they only had two outfielders when Jared (Dickey) hit that ball, and I say it jokingly because his at-bat was tremendous, but somehow he hits it right at the guy. Let’s just say he hits 5 yards to the left. Everybody rips his jersey off and they are celebrating and those things we talk about in practice that are unacceptable tomorrow, I don’t know how long they pay attention. I don’t even know if we have to talk about it tomorrow because if I was a member of the team as a player, I would have trouble sleeping tonight because I would be replaying all of those in my head. We played a Virginia team in Omaha and we played a couple teams last year in the postseason where you’re kind of up in the office and like, ‘We’ve lived a pretty charmed life, but maybe the way these guys have an edge over us is they’ve learned those lessons.’ I brought up Virginia, and those guys coached their way through a .500 season about halfway through the year, and it made them a stronger team in the end and they made a run to Omaha and for awhile in Omaha.”
On the benefit of playing a power five team in the midweek
“It’s kind of flipped. When we got here, you could see people salivating when they got off the bus. We almost got bullied around in some of those games regardless of how good their football team is. Let’s be honest, a lot of times that’s how it’s judged, but college baseball is different. Anybody can get anybody. Drew (Gilbert’s) grand slam gets replayed a bunch, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out it’s going to be pretty competitive on Tuesday, Wednesday, if we move a game up or the SEC moves a game up to a Thursday. You name it, it’s going to be like it was tonight a lot more than it was last year. I kept thinking it was going to come last year and for whatever reason it was wide margin very often, but if you really want to go far, it’s going to get down to the nitty gritty and you just have to want to win. We can pull up Ron Polk, one of the greatest coaches of all-time, and he’s got a book about this big. We can sit in our classroom tomorrow and read it, but that’s not going to do it.”
On if they can handle the energy other teams bring to play them
“Yeah, yeah. We have. We have been in each of these games. Grand Canyon – I’m just saying what I think – but best crowd they’ve ever had in the history of a really good program. And they might have as much talent as any team that they’ve had. It’s the same as tonight. Boston College, they’ve always been good. They are well coached. You could tell me any scenario all the way up until the end of the season and Boston College – I’m not going to be surprised. They are right where they need to be. Arizona, Hunter Ensley ball goes by the third baseman, and he makes a gold glove play. The games tied and maybe we win that one. Wea re talking about a very small deal here. But in the SEC, the margin between winning and losing is that small. You can read a book and we can do diagrams and stuff like that. We can meet an extra two minutes in the outfield before games to go over all that stuff again, but when the game starts, what’s in your chest? Do you want to win?”
On the miscommunication with the Cal Stark bunt with Griffin Merritt on third base
“You know, I didn’t even ask out of frustration. We will go over it, but when you’re in the midst of the game, you can see where maybe e something could have gone better. Obviously, the read was thought more towards the pitcher instead of more towards the first base side. We will go over it – that’s just kind of my estimation right now. Can’t change it. You hope the next guy gets a knock and you score somehow. But they scored one more than we did tonight.”
On the importance of rebounding against Morehead State
“Yeah, you want to answer. With any loss, how you respond is huge. The Omaha team that we had two years ago, they always answered after something like this went on. Last year, we lived kind of a blessed season and maybe didn’t have them on so many occasions, but real life is where you take lumps. How you answer is huge. Conference is about to start for everyone. You can get excited about the SEC, but it doesn’t rally matter. Everyone wants to beat each other’s brains in. So, you end up taking one in the jaw and then you give one in the jaw. On Sunday, who is going to do it? You’ve got to recover for the next weekend and play a really good opponent. How you respond is everything.”
On Ethan Payne’s failed tag up on Jared Dickey’s fly ball to left field in the bottom of the ninth
“I watched his feet. He’s antsy to score on a ground ball. He’s going on contact in that situation which I think anybody in Major League Baseball would do, college and again I’m guesstimating, but on average you’re going to go on contact, so he’s in a big ole hurry to go on the ground, so maybe an extra step or two towards home, recover towards third, so he never really had his feet under him. And I don’t know if he would have scored if so. It wasn’t a clean defensive play. He needed to go right back to the base. Easy for me to say. I’m standing over in the dugout and got the whole thing in front of me. That’s stuff you have to tell yourself before the pitch and then you gotta do it.
“It’s determination and composure. So, good for you if you can hit it real far or throw it real far, but once the actual game starts, you gotta have some determination and grit about you. And they had more than we did tonight which pains me to say. So if anyone wants to put on Twitter, ‘then earn your salary,’ that’s fine. It’s not acceptable for someone to have more grit than us in particular on our field. But with that you have to have some composure Here in lies Jared Dickey’s at-bat. That ain’t easy. You’ve got five guys (in the infield), there’s normally four. The games on the line, all this stuff. The coach does a visit, strategy is in play, but he’s a really competitive kid and he’s also got composure. That’s a tough, tough mix to have. I damn sure didn’t have it. I don’t know how to coach it. But the guys that do have it like Christian Moore and Jared Dickey and Blake Burke, they better start sharing it with the others. And there’s some others that have it, too. Obviously we have a good pitching staff. Sharing is caring. That stuff better be going on tomorrow.”