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It’s time for Tennessee to be the ‘villain’ again and start winning on the road

4 min read
It’s time for Tennessee to be the ‘villain’ again and start winning on the road

It’s been a really solid two weeks for Tennessee baseball. Tony Vitello’s club went from a 5-10 Southeastern Conference record and losers of four-straight to and eight-game win-streak and an 11-10 mark in conference play.

The starting pitching has improved, the defense has been a strength and the lineup has become deeper. This is who we thought Tennessee baseball could be when the season started back in Phoenix nearly three months ago.

Though the Vols have improved greatly, coming into their own at the right time, there’s still one trend that’s yet to be shook – and it dates back to that season-opening trip to the desert. Tennessee is 1-9 in true road games this season. Good teams need to win on the road at this time of the year. It’s time for the Vols to do just that.

“The Arizona one was a unique one. We had guys missing in action and it was our first trip – it was an interesting tournament. Two neutral site games and one road game so that one was quirky,” Tony Vitello reflected this week. “Then you go into the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field and they played well and we didn’t. Then everyone knows Baum [Walker] Stadium and then also at LSU, those are two of the tougher environments.”

Tennessee’s 4-3 loss at Grand Canyon was a great test the second day of the season. It was played in front of 6,000+ screaming fans with a band and cheerleaders on the field for pregame festivities. The Vols were completely lost in the elements during a frigid trip to Missouri and then played in front of a record crowd of 13,068 spectators for game one at Alex Box Stadium and LSU.

Following a disastrous series at Arkansas, the Vols found themselves with the 1-9 record on the road and haven’t had a chance outside of Lindsey Nelson Stadium since. That changes this weekend.

“Each weekend, to be honest with you, completely different circumstances and a little bit different vibe from our team,” the skipper continued. “I’d say if there’s a complaint you’d like some consistency, but we haven’t really gotten in a rhythm where we’re on the road and we’re not. So now we’re in that rhythm so it’ll be interesting to see.”

Tennessee now hits the road with some rejuvenated mindsets and some confident play to back it up. Georgia has a winning record at home and swept top-five Arkansas just two weeks ago, but it’s a team that is extremely beatable at this stage in the season – especially if you take into account where these two teams currently stand.

“I think just keeping the same energy that we have had the past few weeks,” outfielder Jared Dickey said when asked how to keep the winning ways alive outside of Knoxville. “I think our dugout has been really good about staying in the dugout the whole time. The pitchers are doing a really good job of pounding the strike zone and our hitters are sticking to their approach. That is pretty much all you can ask for.”  

Fellow outfielder Hunter Ensley echoed those remarks with Volquest earlier this week, noting that Tennessee needs to stay the course and not change anything. It’s been working here lately.

“For this team to start winning games on the road, we just have to come in confident and play our game,” the redshirt-sophomore said in the exclusive interview. We’ve got to push all of the outside noise behind us and then just play ball. Play clean defense, throw strikes and keep doing what we’ve been doing at the plate.”  

Over the course of the current eight-game win-streak, 50 of Tennessee’s runs scored have come with two outs. The Vols have run-ruled teams. They’ve battled back from multiple-run deficits. They’ve blown big leads only to come back and win during their last at-bat. They’ve walked it off.

Tennessee has won in a variety of ways lately. It’s time to show you can win another way. This weekend on the road, the Vols will get that chance with a postseason berth just a couple of victories away.   

“Really, what you want is for your guys to keep playing baseball the way they’re playing here,” Vitello concluded. “It’s really fun to be at home and every SEC team that’s really good is good at home. So, it’s better to be the hero but sometimes you’ve got to go on the road and be the villain.”

In the words of Barney Stinson, it’s time to ‘Suit Up’ if you’re the Vols.

The post It’s time for Tennessee to be the ‘villain’ again and start winning on the road appeared first on On3.

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