Photo via Arkansas Athletics
Tennessee baseball fell, 5-2, to Arkansas in game one of a three-game series in Fayetteville. Early defensive mistakes and essentially nonexistent offense caused Tennessee to drop game one in which they led 2-0.
Head coach Tony Vitello met with the media following Tennessee’s series-opening loss to the Hogs.
Everything he said is below.
On why Andrew Lindsey got the call and his thoughts on the performance…
“He wants to win. He’s thrown on Fridays before in his career and he’s got great stuff. He’s fully capable, but the biggest thing was that he wants to win. He had a moment in that Florida series that was – it was an interesting moment in the dugout. He was pretty fired up and that’s kind of where it clicked. If we were going to make a change, he was as good of a candidate as anybody. My assessment, I would love to watch the video, but I think he threw the ball great. Obviously when you get a start, you’d like to get off to a good start. You are being asked to take the ball for multiple innings. On this occasion, it’s not like he’s thrown 100 pitches before, so it was more like four or five innings would be an ideal day. He threw well enough if we would have played good defense behind him. You can’t predict the future and one thing changes another. But he threw well enough and we might have had to rip the ball out of his hands in the sixth inning because we would have been looking at the pitch count.”
On what went wrong defensively in the third inning….
“On the double play, I’m not sure what happened. We talked for a little bit. You just see a lot of defenders standing straight up, so I guess mechanically that’s my assessment. The angle-wise, it made it really tough to see. But if you make a couple mistakes against a good team, you open up the door for other things to happen. Again, on defense, it could be basketball – they had a good team and we had a good team – you have to play defense with your feet and you’ve got to get in your legs. I think the same goes for any other sport – it all starts with your feet. You’ve got to grind things out and I don’t know if we did that well enough for a guy who was throwing the ball really well. You know, it’s not like anyone is looking to stab the guy in the back. You could kind of sense form our team that they were excited for him to have the opportunity to throw.”
If the defensive errors in the middle of the infield are mechanical or mental:
“Well I think there’s been some mental ones on occasion where you start to lose focus because it’s really cold at Missouri or it’s not going well. But I don’t think — and I’m just saying this now. Not that I got any one pattern or anything like that in mind. It’s, my biggest theme is you have to grind on defense. Defense is where you muck and grind if you’re a hockey fan. You can’t be afraid to get dirty. You can’t be afraid to get chest’d up. You gotta do whatever you gotta do to get one out.
“I think on the one play where Cal (Stark) made a really nice play down to second base — I don’t know the logistics yet — but I know we’re late covering (the bag). You’re not looking to hurt anybody, but you might have to just tackle the ball and the base at the same time. Or maybe you end up running into the baserunner, but you gotta do whatever you gotta do to get a guy out.”
On Hunter Hollan getting it going around the fourth inning:
“Yeah, a little bit more rhythm to everything he was doing. But it’s easier to do that when things are rolling for you, too. It’s kind of one-two punch there that has to be going there for you in order for it to work out that way, but he’s got some deception. You can tell he likes to compete. He does it in his own unique way. I say it jokingly, but all lefties are a little bit goofy. He did a nice job of mixing speeds as he always does. I thought our guys still had competitive at-bats when we weren’t putting up the runs, but you got an open door against a guy like that, you better charge through it and we kind of went halfway through it.”
The plan for Chase Dollander this weekend:
“More than likely to start tomorrow. We’ll get together as a staff. He probably was 95 pitches last week. One of those deals as a coach where we could have left Lindsey out there. We just kind of played the situation a little bit. And if a pitcher isn’t gassed out at 115 pitches or something, you can leave them out there. It would have been interesting if we would have left Doe in the game last week, but we want him to throw a full start for us. I don’t know if that’s 100 pitches or 80 pitches or whatever that may be. Good chance he starts tomorrow bottom line.”
On what Arkansas LHP Hagen Smith did to shut them down at the end of the game:
“He jumps at you a little bit in the delivery and he relishes — I want to win, but I’m watching the game, too, and you notice when guys want to be in the situation whether they’re wearing our uniform, Florida State, Oregon, Arkansas uniform. He wants to be out there and because he’s jumping at you off the rubber and the balls jumping, too, there’s a little bit of deception. I’ve watched video on him before and he’s absolutely buried some guys. I don’t know that he necessarily did that to us. I thought our guys competed. They had nothing to show for it, but it’s one of the best arms in the league. Knowing him and knowing Coach Van Horn, they’re probably anxious to get in a situation where he’s got the ball in his hand again.”
On Arkansas’ Good Infield Defense:
“It did. Their hard-hit balls were mainly caught by our outfielders, which you’d like your guys to do. The hard-hit balls on the infield for them, I don’t know if any of them make SportsCenter, but they were really good plays. It kind of deflated a couple of guys after some really good at-bats. The left side of the infield was great, and then obviously they make a diving play up the middle, too, at second. So, everybody contributed in their infield, and they didn’t give us an opening. As great as those plays were, I think it boils down to where they didn’t give us an opening on defense, whereas we did.”
On Tavian Josenberger:
“Saw him a bunch in high school. Really talented kid, and I don’t know exactly how his career went at Kansas, but he really likes to play. He’s gotten stronger than the skinny kid I saw in high school, and he put it to use right there. But we had two pitches where I think looked like down and in fastballs to lefties where they got it over the fence. We got it over the fence once. He swung the bat really well tonight, but I think the difference was the things we were talking about with Hagen (Smith) doing well at the end of the game, and us maybe not helping out our guys as best as we could.”
On the Difference Offensively Early:
“The guys were juiced. They had a really good vibe going. Going into the weekend, anticipation has been almost kind of a negative for us… like we got to conquer the world or whatever you happen to be titling the weekend or writing in an article, [it] seemed to take over their minds. Whereas today, they were relaxed and enjoying the opportunity to compete, and it bled into the game. Then when you get punched in the gut, the challenge is can you maintain that? And I will say, for what it’s worth, it doesn’t show on the scoreboard but in the dugout, there were moments of frustration, but I didn’t see any of our guys tailspin because things went wrong, where, to be honest with you, they have in the past.”
On if There’s any Solace in Having More Competitive At-Bats Than Last Week:
“No, I mean… their two guys they threw tonight are totally different than [Brandon] Sproat, but they are just as good. So, no moral victory tonight. Like [Brandon] Neely last week, their closer, we made him use up some pitches and got a look at him, so I do think that’s a benefit a little bit, but for the most part, you want quality at-bats and you want to go somewhere with them, and we didn’t really do that after the first couple innings of the game.”