Tennessee Baseball head coach Tony Vitello met with the media following the Vols’ 7-0 shutout victory over UC-San Diego on Sunday.
Vitello discussed a wide range of topics after the win, including his thoughts on Drew Beam’s start, Blake Burke’s big day at the plate, Griffin Merritt’s toughness and more.
Everything Vitello said in the postgame press conference is below.
On Winning the First Game of the Season
“It’s good. You have to learn how to win, no matter what program or what team it is you’re coaching at the start of the year. So, it’s good to get the first one for everybody. You also got to learn how to win in a variety of ways. And if you take the weekend as a whole, it’s disappointing. You want to win each series. So you gotta figure out how to do that. We won’t have another opportunity until next weekend, but we got games Tuesday and Wednesday where we need to work to win, but we also need to work on things and get better in some areas.”
On Drew Beam’s Start
“He kinda calmed the storm a little bit. We needed something today, whether it be an early run or a strong pregame or good energy, you name it, but what we got was a really solid start, which is kind of the theme when he gets the ball. He had good presence, too. They were in it, obviously they wanted to win the game, and they had a little extra energy going over there, and the fact he had a calming presence I think affected our team.”
On Blake Burke’s Triple
“You’re kinda waiting for something to happen sometimes on offense. Takes two to tango. You know, we’ve seen some really good pitchers, we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit, too. But when he hits a ball like that in a park this big, it gets the whole dugout excited. It is kind of like a big dunk in basketball, it truly does shift the momentum a little bit. But you gotta capitalize on it, too, which fortunately we were able to do at the plate.”
On Zach Joyce’s Outing
“Well, sometimes the kids make you look smart, and that’s what he did in that case. It wasn’t quite how we thought we were going to bring him in the game. He had warmed up a bunch, but all the saga aside, he came out onto the mound and I was almost ready to apologize, and say, ‘We kind of got you in a tough situation here’ and keep it light, but he came out and was laughing. Kind of joking with all the guys, but clearly focused, too. And that’s what you gotta do out of the pen. Come out with a good heart rate and let your best stuff fly. And his stuff is pretty good.”
On Scoring Four Runs in the Seventh Inning
“I think the biggest thing was getting a couple guys on base. Cal [Stark], nothing big, I mean he showed a big swing last night which is great, but he got on base to start the whole thing. And then C[hristian] Scott takes a walk where we were trying to sac the guy over or maybe even bunt for a hit. He took what the game gave him. So we got two guys on to start the inning, and that’s usually when things go well for you.”
On Christian Moore’s Home Run and Overall Performance
“It’s important for him to get on base. And the fact he’s so strong and will be able to drive balls for extra base hits is a bonus, but what we want is his competitiveness and his ability to get on base. And those things go hand in hand. The friendly season of scrimmaging is over, and there’s guys out there, you know, not literally trying to slit your throat, but there’s guys out there attacking you. Doing everything they can for their team to get you out. And you gotta counter that with some competitiveness. And I know how the numbers are, 3-out-of-10 is a Hall of Famer all that good stuff. But there’s different ways you can get on base.”
On Griffin Merritt’s Toughness
“Real tough. I mean he was a really good football player in high school like Drew Beam, he’ll tell you all about it. If you’ve met his dad, he’s just a blue collar man’s man type of guy. So I didn’t think it was even a question on whether he was going to come out of the game. Fortunately, it didn’t catch him too flush in an area where it was a huge concern.”
On Starting Merritt at DH Rather than Outfield
“That was kind of just a go with the gut thing of let’s ease the guy into the whole situation. Also, our outfielders have become familiar a little bit with the big parks here and the environment, so maybe some consistency in the outfield. But come next the two games, he’ll have a game or two out there in the outfield on defense.”
On Throwing Multiple Guys out of the Pen
“I think because of Halvy and Lindsey, Doe didn’t throw his best, and Burns wanted to take a pitch back. It’s a deep staff, and some guys threw really well, so all of a sudden the weekend’s almost over and the innings are shrinking. Again, I don’t wanna get exposed over here and get too caught up in getting guys involved in the game, but it’s not like we’re bringing in weak arms. So a little bit of balance, trying to win the game with some matchups but also, ya know, we just wanted Zander [Sechrist] to come in and throw strikes to start the inning, which he did. And fortunately the way it worked out we kept a zero on the board but also got several guys involved. We are always going to do that at the beginning of the year. [Will] Mabrey said it to me once, ya know, it was his freshman year when we were trying to make sure he gets his feet under him. It’s good for some of these guys to get that first outing.”
On if Sechrist Can be a Reliable Weekend Arm Out of the Pen
Yeah I do. For sure. Everyone knows he can start for us. And the fact he’s a year older and a little more mature and had kind of developed his off-speed a little bit better, I don’t see why he cant transition into a weekend starter if we need him. But also being out of the pen, maybe he kind of complements Kirby [Connell]. Kirby and Red(mond Walsh) were the one two punch down there of kind of that style of lefty last year, and Zander is as crafty as it gets so maybe he’s a good complement down there. We’re still trying to figure out what we got and what we don’t have. Unfortunately, we’re going home with some ideas of what we don’t have and what we need to get better at. Fortunately, it was another good Vol crowd and we got em one win, but we are just as hungry as they are for more.”
On Starting the Season Away from Home
“It’s different. The more comfortable thing is to have a non conference opponent at home. But we got invited to this tournament and didn’t want to say no. You’re coming to get warm weather which we got after Friday night. And the competition. You know we obviously got plenty out of today, but what we got out of Grand Canyon’s environment they had was tremendous. The next time we go on the road, its gonna be like that. Or at least a version of that. Dylan Dreiling will know he can come in and pinch hit or even start in an environment like that and has a clear vision of it. And then on Friday, you gotta big build up of matchup. I don’t look at the rankings much but I assume Arizona is a good ranked team. And you know, a big leaguer on the mound, that gets you ready for what Friday night is gonna be like. Typically low scoring and typically a big leaguer you’re facing in our league, and really you can say that about most non conference teams too.”
Tennessee Baseball is back in action Tuesday night against Alabama A&M in Lindsey Nelson Stadium. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. ET.