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Everything Tony Vitello Said After Super Regional Elimination

Notre Dame was the final team left standing at the end of the Knoxville Super Regional on Sunday afternoon, which means the Tennessee season is officially over and in the books.

The Fighting Irish defeated the Vols by a score of 7-3 on Sunday after a barrage of runs late in the game.

After the game, Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello spoke to the media regarding several different topics. Vitello spoke about in-game moments and decisions, such as the thought process behind Chase Burns’ departure and what went wrong for the team on Sunday. However, Vitello also spoke about the pain that comes with elimination and the heartbreak that he has for Tennessee’s players.

Vitello’s expressions were easy to read as he held back disappointment during the press conference.

In addition to Vitello, Tennessee first baseman Luc Lipcius and pitcher Redmond Walsh also sat down and spoke to the media. Instead of focusing on in-game moments, though, Lipcius and Walsh spent the majority of their time talking about the bond and connection that the team shares.

Check out everything that was said by Tony Vitello, Luc Lipcius, and Redmond Walsh following Tennessee’s postseason elimination on Sunday afternoon in Knoxville. In addition, you can watch the full press conference here.

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Tennessee Head Coach Tony Vitello

Tony Vitello Tennessee Notre Dame
Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello. Photo by Ric Butler/Rocky Top Insider.

Opening Statement

“Obviously, congratulations to Notre Dame. I’d say they have a lot to do with what I’m at fault for as far as decision making. The job of a coach is once the game starts to put your guys in a good position to succeed and I didn’t do that. This is a job that requires big boy decisions and they come at high stakes when you play in our league or you get into the postseason. A lot of that was discomfort from things we saw out of Notre Dame. So again, credit to them. And then two, you have to execute and they did that. Throughout the weekend, I thought our guys played good defense and obviously we did some damage yesterday on the scoreboard. That’ll stick with me. Notre Dame will get to go to Omaha and enjoy that and probably do some damage, it’s a really tough group. I think what needs to stick with our guys once time passes— which they say time heals all wounds, I don’t know who they are because sometimes those take a long time. Fifty-seven (wins this season). That’s a lot. A team with a bunch of good kids, a couple maniacs out there. Accused of bats, I’ve never seen a team accused of doctoring a ball. Accused of doing the Astros and banging on the bench. A lot of that stuff was just because of how dynamic they were as a group and what they accomplished. They did some extraordinary things. Really it was just kind of like yesterday—you slide Trey Lipscomb into the four-hole because Drew Gilbert’s out and he gets an RBI in the first inning. That obviously is not the most important play of the weekend, but it’s one to me that defines this group of a bunch of guys that have each other’s backs.”

On if he can put his finger on what exactly went wrong during the weekend as a whole…

“No, I think there are a couple of things. It’s obviously emotional and our guys have their thoughts on Nebraska, which is what all kids do this time of the year. Really all kids just in general. I think we got stunned a couple of times. That’s nothing new in my opinion. So when that happened, maybe some things showed up that you saw that weren’t crisp. But overall, I thought our guys had good vibes all weekend long for a majority of the time, and we played a really good opponent. You kind of just knew it—today was going to come down to the ninth. I think with my interference, it started earlier than that, but you knew it was going to kind of come down to the end there. So it’s going to be hard fought whoever won.”

On what went into the decision to leave Chase Burns in the game to try and get out of the seventh inning…

“It’s just the fact that he had gotten their best hitter out. Jack (Brannigan) is a special kid. You can see that. He’s pretty annoying if you’re on the other side, but he’s that for a reason. Chase gets him out, so now we’re one out away. I’ve been at a couple of other fields too where it has that quirky—and (David) LaManna certainly squared it up—angle down the right field corner. If it goes, it goes. After seeing that foul-home run against Brannigan, maybe making the pitching change in the middle of that at-bat would have been wise, but I think Chase wanted the ball. He certainly took ownership of the game. We felt good about the matchup against LaManna, but we should have taken him out before that, in particular after the foul-home run. Usually what ends up happening is that you strike out as a hitter after the foul-home run, but kudos to him. He smoked two balls. It wasn’t like Chase wasn’t on the map. I think it was 97 on the radar gun. The pitch before was certainly a ball, but it was a pretty crisp 0-2 pitch where you’d like to see the guy swing and miss or if it’s a little closer to the plate, maybe you get a borderline strike call.”

On the team responding to some adversity this season and if that was in their mind late in Sunday’s game…

“It’s in the back of your mind, otherwise you’re not human. Maybe we got overaggressive in one situation, but I think it was a difficult day to score runs. Their number says otherwise, but it truly was. We did get to the lefty on Friday for one run, but we didn’t really have an answer for that. Part of it is that he threw the ball really well.”

On what Notre Dame’s Jack Findlay so effective on Sunday…

“I think he’s pretty good at stretching the plate. He did that a little bit on Friday. Also, if I’m correct, his off-speed pitch hasn’t been that great in the past, but today it was. Again, it was a difficult day to score runs. His biggest key probably was, when guys get on base or we were starting to build something, it got cut off pretty quickly.”

On what was the message when the ump talked to both dugouts…

“That there was a warning for the benches. I don’t know if it started with play third. You got their guy running around like a madman trying to stretch you know the whole thing. He got to second, and he almost got third, so I don’t know if it was from that collision. (Alex) Rao was throwing the ball well. He struck one of our guys out and told him to sit down. I mean, during the regular season, that’s what goes on. If you do something well, and there’s a lot of emotion into it, which probably if you do something well, it’s really important to you. That’s kind of stuff that comes out. When you do something like he did or other guys in that situation, you’ve earned the right to say that stuff. It’s up to us to try and respond back and see if we can get to the other guy. I don’t know if that’s what started it. It was just kind of my philosophy on some of the extra stuff. I’m disappointed in myself, but it was nice that the game was decided on the field. For many reasons, they were the better team today.”

On how hard it is for the team to not get that opportunity to go to Omaha…

“Yeah, it’s the way that it goes. It’s not easy. I’m glad you asked that question, and I don’t know how I’m doing up here. Probably some people think good some people think bad that everyone’s got an opinion on everything, which is fair play to them, but it’s hard. I’m searching for the right way to say it to not offend anybody. But I’ve had people that played baseball. Can’t wait to see you in Omaha, made reservations in Omaha. This is not easy. Ask Notre Dame. They came up short last year. This year, they did not. I’m sure it drove them like crazy. Maybe that gave them a little edge in Friday’s game. I would like to make it automatic. I’d like to be able to recruit that well. I certainly can’t coach that well, but it is automatic. Ask any team in the country that gets there or has ever played there or has ever come up short. It is not automatic.

So, I don’t think anyone had that in their mind because of what our accomplishments were. They have just been such a good group about tackling the next thing. I think the fact they came up short today, knowing their character and I hate to speak for them. I’ll end my long answer here. I think this group is really good, and one reason why is because they’ll be more upset about coming up short today. Whereas you guys will fairly write about, didn’t make it to this spot or didn’t carry on or didn’t win a national championship, which was in my opinion, far from our mind. I think that’s one of the reasons they have been impressive. Certainly, on Friday or Saturday, it was chaos. For good reason.”

Tennessee Graduate First Baseman Luc Lipcius

Luc Lipcius
Tennessee 1B Luc Lipcius. Photo by Rocky Top Insider/Ric Butler.

On what Tony Vitello said to the team after the game and what the legacy of this Tennessee team will be…

“He just told us that the season was absolutely amazing and we should never forget or feel bad about how far we’ve come and he said that we’ve put him in a really good position to keep this dynasty going. You can see that there’s so much emotion within that group of guys because everyone loves everyone, everyone is such a good guy and then you have him, and he’s the most passionate one of the bunch. You want to go to war with him and every single one around you. But it’s just a fantastic team and an absolutely unforgettable one.”

On what the season has meant to him…

“The records are whatever, but it’s just this group of guys that was one of my favorites of all- time. That’s the hardest thing to give up. It’s really hard to believe it’s over. That’s the great thing about being on a team like this: the relationships are never over. I know I’ve got their backs. I know they have mine. We’ll be in contact and I can’t wait to follow all of their great careers.”

On what Notre Dame’s Jack Findlay so effective on Sunday…

“He was just really good today. His fastball was moving and he was putting it where he wanted to. He was just keeping us off-balance. Kudos to them. They have a really great staff and a really great team. He was just on today. Whatever he was doing was working against us. I don’t think it was much of an approach deal, he just got us out.”

Tennessee Graduate Pitcher Redmond Walsh

Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics

On what Tony Vitello said to the team after the game and what the legacy of this Tennessee team will be…

“Just off of that, (Vitello) always has your back and it’s been that way from day one. Me and Luc were I think the last two kids to commit in our class and probably shouldn’t have even played here. But that guy over there for some reason gave us a shot and we’ve just been able to be in big-time opportunities and kind of turn the program around. Just from that, I can’t thank him enough, the coaching staff enough, my teammates—I mean the years go by and the teams get closer and closer the better you are, and this year, man it’s going to be the hardest one to leave. Those guys are unbelievable. Everyone on that team is pitching-wise more talented than me, so it’s going to be fun to watch them pitch for many years to come. It was an unbelievable season and it’s a tough one to end. But it’s just one of those things where I’m excited to see where those guys go next year and what’s next for all of them.”

On what the season has meant to him…

“Personally, the records do not mean nearly as much as the relationships and those guys out there. I’d give up every save just to have one more game with them or one more practice with them, just to have another day where we can go out and be a team, knowing that baseball is in front of us. I think the records are cool, but at the end of the day, I’d give up my records to have one more day with them.”

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