Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello. Photo by Rocky Top Insider/Ric Butler.
Tennessee Baseball head coach shared his thoughts on the third-ranked Vols 17-9 series-sweeping win over Gonzaga on Sunday in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Vitello touched on the lineup adjustments for Sunday’s game, what he saw from starting pitcher Drew Beam in the high-scoring affair, the outfield competition and more.
Everything Vitello said after the win is below.
On the Post-Game Message to the Team
“We were just kind of going over the series as a whole. Monday typically needs to be an off-day and there’s always things you’d like to address and sometimes they get left out, so instead of sending a group text or something like that, it’s about as gorgeous of a day as you’re going to get. So we took a little extra there and they’re going to get to hangout with their families anyways.
“It started with life is good. We’re in the great state of Tennessee. The cream uniforms are hard to not like. The weather was really good and it’s great competition. We also mentioned the resiliency they had to come back in two of the three games, maybe even three. Friday felt like a comeback no matter who was hitting because those two guys were throwing so well. So the resiliency piece was really good. But there’s plenty of stuff we can execute better. Just bringing up and part of bring it up is I think is we’ve got really high standards I feel, at least when we started. But they’ve kind of — call it the bar being raised or whatever, so we want to hold those guys accountable to that. Also, today in particular, but we talk about the whole weekend had a few examples that you’ve got to point point. The wind was an issue. Guys could have known that better. We got a couple guys out of position and we could have helped our pitchers on a couple of occasions. Everybody that’s watching knows that’s our strength. It’s always going to be, but with this staff in particular. If our guys communicate and if they’re in the position they need to be on defense, and they know the wind, and they just play as well as they’re capable of defensively, not superman, then the pitching staff is even better.”
On the Decision to Have Maui Ahuna Lead Off
“Part of it with all that goofy stuff is have him catch up on at-bats. Last night he gets shorted. He had one less than Jared (Dickey) did, but also just give an opportunity for the coaching staff to look at that lineup the way we had it today. Last year Trey Lipscomb was arguably our best hitter or most productive and he was in that spot (five-hole) that Jared was in today and Jared was obviously pretty productive today. It all worked out the way you want. The first two guys — Maui and (Christian Moore) — the middle of the infield athletic guys we got, get on base. And then we don’t get anything out of the first inning, but that’s baseball. Gonzaga is a team that probably their strength is more their lineup. It’s pretty dang. But the stuff they have on the mound is good. At times they got out of situations like that first inning one. But anyway, that lineup has a chance to be our best lineup that was out there today. And of course Cal (Stark) and (Charlie Taylor), you can juggle one way or the other, but offensively that might end up being the best one we got.”
More From RTI: Tennessee Uses Big Innings to Top Gonzaga in High-Scoring Affair
On What It’s Like for Beam to Get Into a Sunday Slugfest
“It was good for him to experience it. We talked yesterday about if you are going to be a winning team, you gotta find a way to win different games, and we won a sloppy game today. Or call it back and forth if you want, and Drew is right in the middle of it. So it helps him as well. But he’s got higher standards than anybody. He’s also got one of, I should say, the best makeup as far as presence goes on the team. Today, he was frustrated, and whether it be the wind is helping some balls out or we don’t play defense as well as we’re capable of behind him, or just they were taking good swings against him, which more times than not, they don’t do that. I don’t know, but the guy is not gonna be flawless, so I’m all for some of these guys, (Aaron) Combs getting the first earned run or whatever, some of these guys getting that stuff out of the way now, it’ll make them better later.”
On Having Dickey at a Spot Where He Can Drive in Runs
“I hate to take the easy way out, but Jared is such a good kid, good worker and skilled now, I think you can kind of do, offensively, whatever you think is best. And he’s turned himself into a better defender too. Yesterday was, you rewatch that game, I don’t why he laid down like he got shot down there on the foul line, I think that was just his emotions coming out, but almost a miraculous catch, almost makes a sliding catch which, I don’t know, as a pitching coach you’re cheering for it to be caught, but it wasn’t an easy play, and then gets us out with a really good running catch. So, just to be in position to make those plays was great. I’m sure he wants to make two-out-of-three, that’s what we’re always trying to do, win a series two-out-of-three, but you can do a lot of different things with him. Again, just the way we had that lineup, we talked about it as a staff and threw it together today, I think we’re in a good position to score runs with that group the way that it is.”
On Putting Up Runs With Other Guys Outside of Blake Burke
“It’s interesting, you want that lineup… we’ve kind of been lucky the last two or three years where maybe Liam (Spence) and Fergy (Max Ferguson) don’t really do much offensively, but Pav (Connor Pavolony) and (Evan) Russell do something, and then it flips the next day in the series. Kinda the deal ‘We don’t who can get you, but all of us can get you at one point or another,’ and this team hasn’t earned the right to say that yet. Or the old ‘Hey, flip the lineup. Chuck (Taylor) can be nine or one, he gets on-base all the time and then everybody else could do that.’ This team hasn’t earned that yet, but a day like today could help with that conversation. And really, that’s what you want, is one through nine, the ability to manufacture stuff and then also any day have two or three guys that are the guys that have to come talk to you all.”
On Dylan Dreiling Starting in Center Field
“It’s been delayed. Dylan is really, really talented in a lot of ways — in particular with the bat — and you go into Sunday’s game in Arizona (against UC San Diego) 0-2, and you just go with experience. The plan all along was to play him one game out there in the outfield, and we never did it. It’s been delayed, and he deserves even more than he’s getting right now, and that’s to come. However, where we go with all three of those guys, I mean, Griffin Merritt is still learning right field in our park. It’s not like he doesn’t know how to do it, but he’s most comfortable in left field. Who knows, maybe he could end up there or sticking in right,but we’ll move guys around. It’ll be nice to know that we have a nine-person lineup that is kind of what we feel is our best, and then there are some guys that can come off the bench like (Logan) Chambers and (Hunter) Ensley did today and get on base.”
On Christian Scott Getting an RBI Hit
“What I’ve seen, and I’m only going off my conspiracy theories, which I have to many of them, is a guy that has poured his heart and soul into this program and been a major contributor for four years, and now it’s his time to shine and he’s going to take over the world. That’s a dangerous thing. I don’t care if you’re Bryce Harper. To try and accomplish more than one man is capable of is a dangerous thing, and I think that kind of led to C-Scott not performing as well as he’s capable of. To go 10-for-10 like he did 1-for-1 today is not reasonable, but he’s better than he’s shown. He just needs to settle in a little bit.”