Tennessee baseball’s season came to an abrupt halt last week in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Vols were off to a tremendous start in the 2020 season. On the night of Mach. 10th, the Vols were fresh off of a 17-5 win over in-state rival East Tennessee State, ranked in the top 25 of every major collegiate baseball poll, and were 15-2 on the season with conference play set to begin three days later.
Little did they know their season was already over.
On Thursday March 12th, the SEC became one of the final conferences to cancel the remainder of its Men’s Basketball Tournament in light of the concern surrounding the coronavirus. The NCAA canceled the College World Series in both baseball and softball later that afternoon. But the SEC only announced the suspension of regular season competition for teams in all sports on SEC campuses, as well SEC championship events, until March 30th.
Despite later extending that date to April 15th, the SEC ultimately decided to cancel all regular season conference and non-conference competitions for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, including all remaining SEC championship events, due to continuing developments related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
In the wake of the season officially being cancelled, Tennessee head baseball coach Tony Vitello took to Twitter to thank Vol fans for their support.
“Just wanted to thank you for all your support in the spring of 2020, in particular thank you for all the notes, messages, and sentiments that have been sent recently to our coaching staff and players,” Vitello said in a video posted on Tennessee’s baseball Twitter account. “Our players currently are off campus. Most of them are back home.
“They were good teammates all spring long, and they’re being good teammates by doing what’s asked of them in this current climate. We hope you’re being good teammates in your community.”
— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) March 19, 2020
Vitello noted the progress made by the program in his third season on Rocky Top. There was a notable increase in attendance this season while the progress on the field spoke for itself.
“It’s easy to stand up here and tell you it would have been the greatest season of all-time in Tennessee baseball, but we will never know because it never happened,” Vitello said. “The one thing we do know is that we made progress this year in great part to our players, but also in part to our fans.
“This year we broke record numbers in MVP seat holders and increased overall attendance by 10 percent and by far exceeded our numbers of season ticket holders. So, again, thank you to all those people who came out.”
Tennessee baseball climbed as high as No. 11 in one poll this season after not being ranked to begin the year. The Vols defeated No. 1 Texas Tech while sweeping the inaugural Round Rock Classic in Texas the second weekend of the season in the midst of going undefeated in the month of February.
“We had yet to reach spring weather, whether it was here in Tennessee or down in Texas, so to all those non fair-weather fans, we thank you,” Vitello said. “The fans that trickled over from basketball games on Saturdays were a tremendous boost, and all the way down in Texas we had a lot of long-distance fans that came and supported the Vols. And heck, we even had a bear hanging out in our stadium to start the year.
“Thank you to all those people, and until we get to play baseball in Lindsey Nelson Stadium again, please stay safe. Thank you for your support.”