Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics
Following the Vols’ series sweep over Morehead State, Tony Vitello met with the media to discuss his takeaways from Tennessee’s doubleheader sweep on Saturday.
Vitello touched on Chase Burns’ amazing start, Kavares Tears’ weekend performance in his first three career starts, Griffin Merritt’s three home run day, Camden Sewell’s return and more.
Everything Vitello said from Saturday night’s media availability is below.
On the Team’s Response this Weekend After the Boston College Loss
“Yeah I mean, in particular, Thursday’s practice, you could feel it a little bit. That’s not gonna, sometimes you say ‘The hay’s in the barn,’ which is half true on Thursday but also, there is some carry over and some things that go on there will carry over into pre-game Friday, some of the pregame things will carry into the game. All that was positive. If anything, in between the doubleheaders, it’s your first time doing it, you’ve won two games, you’re on your field, maybe you play best when you are loose, most guys do. And I’m referring to our team, but it seemed like they were a little too loose at the beginning of that game, but it didn’t take long. Bakke (Morehead starter) comes off the mound and pumps his fist because he got out of a big jam–that dude’s a competitor–and I think around then, our guys realized they were in deep waters. So was Morehead State, it was a battle in that last game, and it’s good for us to experience as many of those as possible throughout the year, especially going towards May. As a whole, good stuff by our guys.”
On Griffin Merritt’s Big Day
“There’s been days where he’s landed on a few and it just wasn’t the right day the way the ball was carrying, or the wind, so he’s consistently in the box to me. He’s got a plan, his swing is pretty repeatable, and he’s obviously looking to drive the ball. He knows what the pitcher is doing, he can make adjustments in between at-bats, during at-bats, so he’s going to be like every baseball player, in particular hitters, results will fluctuate a little bit, but you feel good as a coach what you’re going to get over the stretch of, call it the season or a week or a weekend, and today was obviously one of the better days for him.”
More From RTI: Chase Burns Pitches a Gem as Vols Win Series
On Chase Burns’ Performance and Overall Pitching this Weekend
“Whatever Burns had going, he needs to put it in a bottle and sell it. Because there was a little extra edge there, and maybe it’s just the guy getting better, I mean, everybody’s got the opportunity to do that, to kinda adjust their dials each week and figure out what they need to do a little bit different to get ready for the game, in the game, in between pitches, and stuff like that. He was dialed in. And it also goes to show you, if you’re facing good college hitters, you can be as locked in as possible and even a blip on the radar screen can get you. And Doe (Chase Dollander) was the same way last night. Those walks, we went back and looked at the video, he was all around the zone. It wasn’t like he was a mess out there or he looked like not himself or anything like that, but you look at the homer, it’s a little wind-aided, but it was just one pitch he didn’t throw that well and it cost him. So you have to compete each inning and treat each one of those pitches like they’re equally important, so some guys might look like they’re better in the third inning or the first inning or the fifth inning, but we’ve three starters that we know are going to give us a quality start and keep us in the game by the time they leave. And I think our fans, you guys and our coaching staff’s confidence in our bullpen is going up, in particular with adding Camden (Sewell) down there.”
On Camden Sewell Making His Season Debut
“My main sentiment is I was happy. I thought he would be, too, when I handed him the ball, but he was out there scowling like he can play middle linebacker for coach (Josh) Heupel, which — you’ve seen his frame — he’s not going to do that. He’s been ready for awhile. He can throw the ball. That’s a guy that has a lot of history in this program. He could have moved on to a lot of different things, including pro ball, but he wanted to be a Vol. Again, I say this sometimes, like a parent, I don’t think you’re supposed to pick favorites, but you got to like Camden whether you’re his teammate, a coach, and the fans, based on their ovation, it sounded like they were wanting Camden to get out there for as long as Camden has been wanting to get out there. Now he’s in the hopper with those guys and he’s able to rock and roll. I don’t think there is much as much as limitations for him.
On the Bullpen’s Performance Saturday
“It’s to the point where it’s frustrating that Zander (Sechrist) and (Zach) Joyce are down there getting hot, and you’ve seen what Joyce can do for us, what his brother is doing — in the pursuit of being in the big leagues — and I think he’ll follow in his footsteps. Zander, I think is primed to take on a little bit more of a significant role in the bullpen for us on the weekends. They’re hot and they didn’t get to pitch. And then I walk by (Aaron Combs) in the hallway, and we had him down there getting hot in the first game and decided that was the best time to get Sewell his first action. Also, (Andrew) Lindsey was throwing the ball so well, and when the game is that close, you have to be careful about looking to get everybody involved as if it was a grade-school soccer game. At the end of the day, you have to win, and if we don’t, I have to come in here and answer to you guys. Lindsey and (Seth) Halvorsen both made it very difficult to take the ball out of their hands today, and that’s a good thing.”
On Kavares’ Tears Weekend Performance
“He took advantage of it, but we’ve talked about this in the locker room. I don’t have the magic formula for who the best guy is. We talked about Tuesday game on the radio and I think I talked about it with you guys, but when you win, you did everything right, but I will be the first to admit that we’ve won games here where I’ve gone back and been like, ‘What the heck was I thinking doing that,’ or ‘We won’t do this again this way because it wasn’t the best move.’ Again, when you win, fans, the team, everyone thinks you did everything right, but really inside there is going to be embedded mistakes and different things you’re trying, and all along we’ve talked about trying KT in the lineup because he has — I don’t know what they call it in boxing — but he’s got the touch of death if he can just get it on the barrel. The one last night was pretty special, but he can hit it over the fence without really hitting it. He just has to touch it on the barrel. He’s a great option for us to be in the lineup. He may get three at-bats for whatever reason look terrible, but if he just touches it, it can go a long way.”
On Dylan Dreiling’s Weekend
“To be honest with ya, base running has been — for most freshman — is something he has to get better at. Defense, he’s naturally gifted to run around out there and play defense, but there’s other things built into the game that it’s just a little bit higher level or more complex than high school. It’s still baseball. Other little things.
“But if you talk about just standing in the box, he’s been about as consistent from day one as any of our other hitters. I know he really likes being in the box. He’s gotten stronger with Coach Q (strength coach Quentin Eberhardt), so when he impacts the baseball he’s got a little more to it. He’s a talented kid and he took advantage of his opportunities and there’s going to be a lot more coming for him.”
On How Much He Thinks He Has Learned About This Team to This Point With SEC play Beginning Next Weekend:
“Yeah, a lot. That’s almost a question for post-Tuesday, but we kind of have a weird day in there, a buffer with Sunday, so I kind of said some things about the week or other things to our guys out there, so, yeah, if you were going to take a timeout and almost act like that Tuesday game doesn’t exist, our nonconference to this point has been incredibly beneficial. Some of you guys still joke about one of the weeks we had last year (sweeping Iona) where it just wasn’t very competitive and some other things that went on, I think we’ve gotten a lot out of this nonconference is the bottom line. We’ve gone through some team drama, we’ve gone through experimenting with a bunch of different guys, we’ve added a team leader and a key pitcher in (Camden) Sewell. There’s just been a lot go on and I don’t see how it doesn’t make our story a little bit better and stronger, or I should just say our group better and stronger as we get into conference play where it’s 10 weeks of hell.”