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What Tony Vitello said after run-ruling Wofford, previews Georgia

8 min read
What Tony Vitello said after run-ruling Wofford, previews Georgia

Tennessee exploded for 10 runs its final two at-bats and held on for the run-rule victory over Wofford 13-3 Tuesday night from Lindsey Nelson Stadium. With the win, the Vols extended their win-streak to eight games and close the nine-game homestand with an 8-1 record.

After the ballgame, UT coach Tony Vitello broke down his team’s win while also looking ahead to the weekend series at Georgia. A written transcript is provided below.

Tony Vitello written transcript

Why Zander Sechrist and AJ Russell received more work than they had been receiving in midweek games

“The team we were playing. Really good program. Very well coached. Very organized. Two of the more dangerous hitters we’ll see this year at the top of the order. Was kind of cursing their name. You plan for the weekend and they kind of shuffled up the batting order a little bit, but not that the other guys aren’t capable, but those two guys at the top of the lineup are pretty special. And then you know their pitchers are going to throw strikes. That’s something we’re all trying to do as coaching staffs, but they’re obviously excelling at it. We wanted to win the game and continue playing ball. That was a good way to start May.”

On the offense’s success against the Wofford pitching staff that is really good at throwing strikes

“To draw five walks I believe it was, but also just have at-bats that were consistent throughout the game because if you isolate one at-bat here or there, or even a couple in a row at the beginning, it would be frustrating. But if you look at kind of the whole kind of picture, those guys were really relaxed and dialed in tonight. They did a good job against some really good arms.”

What AJ Russell did so well

“He was throwing the ball really well. He’s one of those guys, kind of like Redmond (Walsh) when he was younger with us, by the end of the year, we were kind of like, ‘he’s one of the guys we maybe should have used more.’ It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback, but there’s a pecking order and he’s certainly got plenty of opportunities. We’ve said before this guy is good enough that by the end of the year we’re going to look at his innings total and say, ‘it would have been nice if would have got five or six more.’ But he’s still got plenty coming to him. Now that he’s been out there in heated situations. Not just, ‘hey, you get to start your own inning and get us three outs.’ I trust him in any situation. I trust him to close the game, to be honest with you now that we’re talking about it. That’s what he was basically required to do. All of a sudden after five pithes you’ve got bases loaded and facing a pretty good hitter. He’s been in Baum Stadium with a runner on, got a double play. This past weekend against one of the more dangerous lineups in the SEC. I could go on and one. It’s really good stuff, but it’s also really good presence.”

How high he believes Russell’s potential is

“I’ve kind of said it to the team, ‘you can go as high as you want.’ So, I don’t know if he can top ole Luke Hocheavor, but he can do a lot of things I think. It’ll be fun to watch him. I got all heated in the outfield one time is what I’m referring to and said, ‘when you’re starting on the weekend when you’re a junior’ — who knows, he may do that before. Maybe his role is something that’s really good, but it’s not meant to be that. Again, I was just kind of going on a tangent at the time, but even when I blacked out in my thinking, I thought ahead to know well enough he’s going to be one of the better pitchers we have in this program over the next three years.”

On why he trusts AJ Russell

“You got to have the right heart rate. I think I’ve said with you all before, we got a Braves hat on, [Kumar] Rocker was fun to watch do all kinds of crazy stuff. No politics, I’m not on board with anything he’s had to say, and I’m not against it either, but Rocker was a maniac. The better example, more fun one, is Charlie Sheen in Major League, to have the crazy closer. But the guy you want out there is the guy that is under control. Mariano Rivera, the same guy no matter what the situation is. And for a freshman, him and Dylan Dreiling are two in particular, and there’s a few others in that class, too. [Andrew] Behnke was like that when we threw him out there for his first time right in the middle of the year where it just looks like they’re playing baseball. And we can ask them to do that as coaches, but it’s a lot easier said than done. So, he’s got good presence to him.”

On how tough Seth Halvorsen’s journey was and how he dealt with it

“What it says is what you got inside of you a little bit. At the end of the day, we were talking out there in the outfield, this is all about to see what you can and can’t do. And when you compete in our league, it’ll tell you. Can you handle fans? Can you handle this, that or the other? I think if you’re willing to persevere through stuff like that, it’ll make you stronger not just at this but really anything that comes afterward in life.”

On who has been the glue for the team

“I mentioned Tom Wilcox when I went on my rant about the middle of the dugout. He almost made an appearance tonight, but we were missing two innings of baseball, there. Jared Dickey, I think, has always been a guy where guys gravitate towards his energy, but we’re starting to get to a point where this guy is the leader of this category, this guy seems to be the leader of this, when they’re going to celebrate or do something to prepare for the game in the locker room, this guy is in charge of playing this song or whatever. Maybe we could’ve orchestrated that earlier in the year, but they needed time to work through it. And it maybe took more time than other groups, but there’s a lot of new faces. You guys watch the game, and everyone can make their own opinion for, ‘Blake Burke hits the farthest home runs in BP (batting practice),’ but each person brings something to the table, and I even mentioned a guy that doesn’t have any action for us on the field. There’s different ways you can contribute. It doesn’t just have to be on the way to the field, and I think, especially some of the younger guys, are figuring that out.”

On how valuable it is to have so many personalities…

“It’s huge because when you get into these games, I watched a couple SEC games — the end of them at least — because we’re off on Sunday this past weekend and you go 1-1 going into game three and it comes down to the ninth inning and then comes down to the last hitter and then comes down to something like, we made a couple mistakes tonight. We slide head first into second base on that pitch in the dirt and Dylan is probably safe. That’s a small thing and everyone makes mistakes but a series can be decided by that. So if the margin is that small then it’s huge if you have a group of guys that are working together and picking each other up. That might be the vibe that pushes you over the top in a series that’s 1-1 or just one game where it’s a grudge match. Kind of like we had this past weekend where Mississippi State was up, we came back, they get up again and then we come back and it’s tied and next thing you know Griff(in) Merritt does what he does.”

On if he’s liked the team’s approach on the road this season….

“Yeah. The Arizona one was a unique one. We had guys missing in action and it was our first trip and it was an interesting tournament. Two neutral site games and one road game so that one was quirky. 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. Each weekend, to be honest with you, completely different circumstances and a little bit different vibe from our team. 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. Really what you want is for your guys to keep playing baseball the way they’re playing here. 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 gotta go on the road and be the villain. Playing Bane would be fun too. Not just Batman. Especially if you don’t have that bad voice Christian Bale had in that deal.”

On what he knows about Georgia….

“For me, they have some guys that have been around for a while. That’s the thing that sticks out the most. If you haven’t heard the names that are in that lineup when you go look at it again they’ll pop up because we’ve played those guys the last couple of years. I understand pitching staff wise they have a lot of lefties. We have a good amount of left-handed hitters so that will be something but we’ll dive into that a little bit more, but that’s the thing that sticks out to me. We’re in that quirky period where COVID is still a factor as crazy as that sounds. So you have some rosters where you have some really older pieces or experienced pieces that are in play. We have a few of those too but they definitely do, especially at the plate.”

The post What Tony Vitello said after run-ruling Wofford, previews Georgia appeared first on On3.

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