Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello. Photo by Ric Butler/Rocky Top Insider.
Tennessee baseball picked up its second straight win Tuesday night, run-ruling Eastern Kentucky 14-2 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Vols used nine different pitchers in seven innings and hit six home runs in the win. The matchup against Eastern Kentucky was Tennessee’s last before hitting the road and facing Arkansas this weekend.
See everything sixth-year coach Tony Vitello said to recap the game and preview the Vols’ road trip to Fayetteville.
More From RTI: What To Know About Tennessee Baseball’s Win Over Eastern Kentucky
On Reese Chapman and Logan Chambers hitting their first career home runs
“That’s pretty cool to see it happen to anybody when you get the first one but especially if you’re a freshman like Reese and of course he kind of gets to tally it up as a walkoff. But also those two kids are— we had a little quick conversation in the outfield, it wasn’t about anything that had to do with anything recently but just guys that go about their business the right way is what you’re looking for as a teammate and as coaches when you coach kids. Those guys literally do everything to T that you would like them to do. Reese is starting to come out of his shell a little bit like Dylan (Dreiling) and some of the other guys but Logan’s always been very comfortable in his own skin and is a phenomenal kid to have around here no matter what he’s doing on the field. Reese can hit in the big leagues. Not that Logan can’t. Logan has been one of our most consistent hitters when we scrimmage in games I think it’s just been a matter of kind of getting rolling for him. Of course you’ve got to get the opportunities to do that too.”
On Andrew Behnke making his career debut
“He did great. I like that, he probably doesn’t, but I like that that guy got a knock against him. Maui was this close to making a phenomenal play on it but it was good to see something go wrong and how he handled it. To me, he was the same guy the entire time he was out there. It had been coming for a while. He’s been good for us since he showed up on campus and he incrementally gets better each time he gets an opportunity to throw. He throws whenever we ask him to cause so far it’s just been to hitters to kind of see how he looks or get some other guys some looks at a lefty or something like that. But he’s got a bright future and why not make it now. Ultimately that decision was his. If we had last year’s roster requirements or next year’s roster requirements he would have already pitched a little bit for us, but we wanted to be real sure and work within those restraints and it all came to fruition tonight for the kid and now the race is on to see how many times we can get him out there until the end of the year.”
On what Arkansas does well, challenges of playing there
“I should take a few minutes after we play on Tuesday to look. Not that I don’t know some of the guys but there’s— the familiarity of knowing the guys as recruits is completely gone. So my familiarity is more with the program. It’s a lively park with the fans. You’re going to have as big of a fanbase as anybody has. They know the game well and are going to try and make it tough on the opponent. No place is going to be the same but we’ve kind of looked at what that’s like in Arizona at Grand Canyon and in Baton Rouge. The guy (Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn) is a winner. He knows how to manage a game and certainly has an approach with the pitching staff that he’ll use so those consistencies are factors that are going to be there consistently every year. But I think this year they have a bunch of guys that were waiting their time. I know they lost as many guys as we did, as Mississippi did but it’s not like they’re filling them in with guys that aren’t any good. Couple portal guys. One from Kansas themselves and one from Creighton that’s a big ole strong guy and then they have a couple lefties on the mound that are really good too. We’ll look at the much bigger picture but they are consistently one of the best programs in the league for a good reason.”
On managing emotions with the recent history between these two teams
“[It was] different guys. I mean Fergy (Max Ferguson) was on the team, and I forget there’s another thing that went on–I’m now reflecting because you’re bringing it up–but that was a while ago. It’s certainly a storyline for the fans. That’s what makes this league so great. So there’s some things there for people to talk about and it may rear their head at certain points in the weekend, you could say maybe that’s because of this or that. I don’t really know how to speak for them (Arkansas) on where they’re at. I know they’re having a lot of success, so I’m sure they’ll want to keep it rolling. For us, it’s… Are we going to show up to the park with the best approach possible for us? Ultimately, as coaches you are trying to put kids in a position to succeed, and we’re doing our best to do that, and as the year goes on, we’re learning guys and things like that, but the kids need to put themselves in the best position to succeed or their teammates in the best position, too. By now, we’ve stacked up enough reps on gameday that we kind of know what we need to do when we’re struggling, when it’s going well, how to approach each day; game one, game two, and game three are all different. So, an inward reflection is going on right now for our guys. You don’t have time to do that on gameday, so I think the next couple of days, kind of having a sense whether they want to talk about it and meet, the meeting is not going to come from me, or just kind of make the decision that, ‘If we’re going to play ball, let’s play ball.’ Again, they know by now what that formula is, and there’s a lot of things that go into it, but I think it’s time to cut out the fat of, you can do without this, you don’t need to read this, you don’t need to talk to this person the night before a game, you don’t need to be worrying about this a night or two before the game. Show up and play ball.”
On if he plans to change the weekend rotation
“John (Wilkerson) asked me that on the radio, and we had about everybody you could imagine available tonight. [We were] kind of feeling out how the game would go, and there’s a couple of guys I kind of wanted out there that didn’t pitch. Of course, we got the new rules in place. But, Coach A(nderson) scrambled with a few guys to throw bullpens. I think there were four of them, and then the pitchers were out there. I tried to make it fun and said, ‘Who’s got the best Coach Anderson impersonation?’ (Andrew) Lindsey made an effort. It wasn’t good, and I think somebody else said something, so it was kind of a scramble. That’s the picture I’m trying to paint for you. We’ll get organized tomorrow. I wanted to see how tonight would go. As a coach, you’re kind of worried. Are we caught up in the fact we played well against Florida? Are we looking forward to Arkansas? Or are we right now? Everything I saw out of everybody, they were loose, but it was all about right now or today for them, which was a good sign, and I think the scoreboard reflected that.”
On the key to playing loose at Arkansas
“Just cut out the – I can say BS I think. Stuff kids look up on their phones these days, gosh I can say BS. Get to the essentials. What do I need to do to get myself ready to play and what do I need to do to help my buddy next to me get ready to play? I’ve sat in here and done it on the radio, by now I definitely sound like I’m whining. I’m trying to defend them, though. It’s already hard enough, this game, and then you do it at the highest amateur level in this league. Now, it’s super hard. So why are you going to tack on all this other stuff? Well, I can see why. There’s good reason. We could break it down by individual or break it down as out while team. But, why do you have to make it tough? I think in Yellowstone, is it Beth? She’s feisty. I think my man from Dazed and Confused tells her ‘life is hard, don’t help it.’ We have helped it a lot. Now, I want to defend them. I feel for them. There’s a lot of external BS that either some individuals have to deal with more than others or as a team. Fighting this battle, fatting that battle and so on. Arkansas is pretty good. And Baum-Walker Stadium is pretty rowdy. So, that’s there. Even more if you want to cut to the core, are we going to continue to try and find out what our best baseball is or not? That’s the question. I think they are eager to do that. I think they are kind of fatigued in not doing that on certain occasion and want to be more consistent with it. We’ll see if they will stick to their guns on that and I’ll see fi I can stick to my guns on that and focus on what the essentials are.”
On Friday night at LSU helping for what’s to come this weekend
“I think what happens in there is a lot of build up to the series. So, if t goes well like it did against Texas A&M, we were locked in offensively and did a good job against a really good Friday guy there. It was like confidence went even higher. We won that game pretty handily, but there was all this build up. If it doesn’t go well out of the chute, you get all deflated. [Kevin O’Sullivan] Sully at Florida looks out for me. He’s an experienced coach and a national champ. I had a conversation with him, and I think Florida was more worried about us coming back and winning game one than we were confident or focused on winning that game. That doesn’t matchup very well. You don’t want the opponent more nervous than you are confident. I don’t know I those are the right words, but I think that all stems form extra stuff. Sorry to beat up that theme but I truly think that’s the case. Anybody can beat anybody in this league, btu I know it’s a pretty good team when we show up and it’s a pretty fun team to be around. When they show up the way that I was preaching about earlier.”