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Tony Vitello Talks Preseason Practice, Competition All Over Field

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Tennessee is just over two weeks away from opening up its 2022 baseball season against Georgia Southern at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Vols’ head coach Tony Vitello met with the local media Wednesday to discuss preseason practice and the poor injury luck Tennessee is already facing.

Tennessee ace Blade Tidwell is sidelined indefinitely with shoulder stiffness while Missouri transfer pitcher Seth Halvorsen is out until at least SEC play. Vitello expressed confidence on the Tidwell front, saying he believes the talented right-hander will pitch this season.

Fortunately for Tennessee, they already added an extra arm between fall practice and preseason practice in Vanderbilt transfer Ethan Smith.

In three years at Vanderbilt, Smith posted an 8-0 record and 2.77 ERA in 64.2 innings pitched. There is still a hurdle to clear before Smith can pitch for the Big Orange. Since he transferred in the middle of the school year, the NCAA has to clear Smith to play — something the Vols are still waiting on.

“He’s thrown well in scrimmages,” Vitello said of Smith. “The one thing he definitely has is quality off speed pitches. You can look at that two ways. You could really use that as a guy out of the pen— you’re probably coming in to get us out of a jam, and when you can go to quality off speed it really really helps. He also has some experience closing games and coming out of the pen in crucial situations, and he knows what the league looks like. I think it helps to have that vision. … Having said that, as he continues to get into our system a little bit more and get around our people where we can get him in conditioned shape and things like that to potentially start. I wouldn’t rule that out as an option either.”

In the field, Vitello talked on an abundance of subjects. At catcher, Tennessee has its top two catchers in Evan Russell and Charlie Taylor and will play both of them.

There is no shortage of bodies in the middle of Tennessee’s infield. The Vols lost Max Ferguson and Liam Spence to professional baseball and there’s a handful of players that could take their spots.

Returning players Cortland Lawson and Logan Steenstra as well as freshmen Seth Stephenson and Christian Moore are in the best places to earn those spots.

Vitello also discussed the growth of Jordan Beck and Kyle Booker, Tennessee’s ghastly road schedule and more.


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