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Everything Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee’s 22-Run Win Over Alabama A&M

Tony Vitello
Tennessee HC Tony Vitello. Photo by Rocky Top Insider.

Tennessee baseball posted its second consecutive run-rule victory over Alabama A&M Wednesday evening at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The Vols scored 15 runs in the fifth inning — a new program record — on their way to a 23-1 victory in just seven innings.

Vitello discussed Charlie Taylor’s career day, Zach Joyce’s home debut and much more.

Here’s everything Vitello had to say after the lopsided win.

More From RTI: Charlie Taylor Rakes, Tennessee’s Pitching Thrives In Win Over Alabama A&M

On how good it was to see Charlie Taylor’s success

“Awesome for me but I think better for the fans. He’s a fan favorite here as much as anyone I’ve seen and I like going to a lot of the sporting events but he’s kind of got that vibe. Now it helps when you play in front of a good crowd. I mean last night we didn’t talk about it much but that’s a pretty good opening day crowd especially when you open on a Tuesday, and then tonight I was kind of wanting them to see, (Ben) Joyce has a brother (Zach) obviously and many of the people stuck around even though the game went along for a while and the score became in our favor. Good for all those guys to get out there and get cheered for but Charlie seems to get the loudest not just from our fans but from our dugout too. He’s that type of kid.”

On if Taylor needed the confidence or if it’s just an added plus

“I think he just needed a new bat. Louisville (Slugger) takes care of us and he had a certain size bat he wanted, a certain modification. You know, they got him hooked up today and he mentioned in the cage he likes it and it’s feeling good. He’s fully capable of that. He’s as strong as anybody in the weight room and part of that is work ethic by nature and he’s pretty strong too. He comes from a family where they take nutrition and work ethic pretty serious so we inherited that. When he gets it, he can run it out of here and he did a couple times, I think, in the Fall World Series. One of them  was a walk off. Again, our park does play smaller on some days but if you pay attention things will even out. Dickey might have had one taken away by the wind blowing in and therefore it goes foul. Chuck had one that was knocked down but heck he hit the second one so far, wind wasn’t a factor.”

On what he’s like from freshman outfielders Dylan Dreiling and Reese Chapman

“Both are guys that need to play. It helps when you have some room for error. You want to be in the win column and it helps to have a lead where you can joystick some guys, but they’re both guys if we played our first 10 games that kind of deserve four or five starts. Just throwing out random numbers. These are two guys that turned down money to come here and coming from no money and also having been in recruiting for a long time, I’ll forever be in debt and appreciate kids and families that say no to money upfront. And they do it because it’s not ready, it’s not their time. A lot of that stuff is circumstances. It’s not a pro bowl versus college ball thing, but the fact those guys are here— we’re blessed because they very easily have the talent to be in Arizona right now. Still, even though our team came back here if that makes sense. Pretty flat swing Dylan put on that one today and smoked it. It’s good for Reese to get the first one out of the way and a lot of firsts have now been knocked out. We can move on with business.”

On his thoughts of Zach Joyce to begin the season

“He just makes me feel good in the dugout – I was telling Seth Halvorsen. He was next to me. Certain guys go about it differently, so it’s not like guys can’t do well out there or give you that ‘feel good.’ But yesterday it was [AJ] Russell, today it was him. Obviously getting results, but the presence itself – it’s pretty dang good with his stuff coming out, too.”

On Griffin Merritt’s confidence moving forward after good day

“I think it will help him settle in to being who he is. I think you’ve started to see it with some guys. Jared [Dickey] yesterday and you could argue today. I know the results weren’t quite there but with the one swing he put on, it’s how he’s looked the past two days, settling more into who he is. When the season starts, who have a clean slate. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. You want everything to stay perfect or stay great. Well, good luck with that. You’re going to take some blows and you’re hoping to give some blows. Also when you step into a program where we’ve been fortunate enough to have success over the past few years, you want to emulate what you saw prior to. That’s not going to work either. You can learn things from Kobe Bryant or Bryce Harper who whoever, but you can only be you. We added Griffin for a reason and he looked like himself tonight.

On Wyatt Evans’ availability

“He’s sore right now, so he’s going through a throwing program. Camden Sewell is similar. Fans would rather see us win the last series of the regular season compared to the first It’s not like we didn’t take last weekend serious We did -trust me- just as much as Arizona, Grand Canyon and UCSD. Those are two guys where we wanted to be conservative. There are similar guys who were throwing in this game. [Zach] Joyce for instance is just coming back. He’s throwing the ball well in scrimmages too. We aren’t babying him, but we’d like to progress him along. He is capable right now of facing hitter if we really needed to, but we are going with a progression approach.”

On how important it was to work guys at different positions in the infield

“We’ve done it in scrimmages but we talked in here last night about how scrimmages are different than actual games. Even if you don’t get a play out there, which C Mo (Christian Moore) and Jazzy (Austen Jaslove), I thought they were going to duke it out for that fly ball, but even if you don’t get a play at least you can check the box of — to me, as a coach, the last thing you want to here is an excuse. You just want guys to give forth their best effort. But as a coach it’s up to us to put them in a good position and again, we’ve checked a lot of boxes for a first. I don’t know what our lineup is. Reese (Chapman), Dylan (Dreiling), there’s other guys that could break into it. There’s other guys who could settle in to being who they are a little bit better like we talked about with Griff, so we might do some more mixing and matching as the non-conference season pushes along here.”

On what he saw from junior LHP Zander Sechrist

“Steady Eddie. I think the one thing we have is the flexibility to use him in the bullpen with Redmond Walsh no longer being (here), us going a little slower with Wyatt (Evans). He’s a guy you can trust to field his position, who can come in and throw strikes, have composure when he comes out of the bullpen, but also he’s done a phenomenal job for us starting when we give him the opportunity. You never know, you go to Hoover if we qualify for that. If you’re fortunate enough to play in the postseason after that, then you may need a fourth, fifth starter. Or you may use one of your starters in relief and a guy gets bumped up or something like that. It’s good to now have another guy you can maybe put in that Swiss army knife category.”

On Dayton

“Last weekend they played a really-well coached team. New management if you will at Western Kentucky. We have kind of a bond from working with those guys that were at a couple junior colleges. A well-coached team, they’ve got some talent. So, while Dayton took three losses, they’re probably much more determined than they were the first weekend and now they’ve got some reps under their belt and they’ve also played against some good competition in Western Kentucky. And I’ve been in that position before when you’re working at a northerns school, you don’t want excuses, but you do need time outside and you do need to catch up in repetitions to maybe a Florida or Florida International or whoever it might be. They’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

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