Tennessee baseball head coach Tony Vitello met with the media following the Vols’ 10-4 series-opening win over Texas A&M to share his thoughts on the victory.
Everything Vitello said after Tennessee’s first SEC win of the season is below.
On the shaky start from Chase Dollander:
“Yeah, it was an odd first inning in general, but showed a lot of guts to pitch the way that he did. Then, it kind of got to the point to where it no longer looked like he was competing his way out of not pitching as well as he could, but then he got in a groove about as good as anyone that we’ve had this year, although (Seth Halvorsen) would have something to say about that by the way that he threw.
“But an awkward first inning. We had a miscommunication on what was going to be used as far as signals and that’s why you saw some awkward plays. The other thing is you’ve got the first inning against a team that’s fired up to compete and the top of the order is pretty good. They just had two huge wins. One against LSU and one against in-state rival Rice. So, like anything, it’s never one answer. It’s usually a combination of things. But I think without stepping on anyone’s toes, although it’s ultimately a coaching thing, a little bit of a miscommunication on what was being relayed sign-wise.”
On Jared Dickey catching:
“He did well. At times, he can try and do too much back there, whereas he’s turned himself into a good athlete if he just recognizes that. He’s worked really hard in the cages and also out on the field to become a true catcher, which I think he is. We were just moving him around in the best way possible for the team. But tonight, we thought the best spot for him was behind the plate and when you’re catching two guys that are going to pitch in the big leagues, I think he did pretty well.”
On facing Texas A&M starter Nathan Dettmer:
“I think a lot of it is sometimes circumstantial. He might be asked the question, to flip it, like, ‘why did you not have as much success in the first inning as you normally do?’ Because that’s a guy that led them to Omaha last year and he’s been their staff ace for quite some time. It’s always a combination of things and I think a lot of it had to do with good vibes in our dugout and locker room from a team win Tuesday. It was a unique lineup and things that went on Tuesday were really good. Then you also kind of got that extra determination sprinkled in from last week. Then just the tremendous feeling that I know I felt of just being back here. You better be tough enough to go play on the road, but just being back here and seeing our fans. The first SEC crowd we’ve had here. It was something special I think our guys had, too. There’s some strategy, scouting report stuff mixed in there, but I think for the most part it was kind of that word ‘vibe.'”
On the offense’s hot start
“It was great to see. In particular, you are picking up your pitcher who didn’t have that great of a first inning. And then, too, KT (Kavares Tears), hard to fault a guy who makes an aggressive defensive mistake, sells out for that ball, maybe they don’t score in that inning if he just keeps it in front and has a single. So, that’s what it’s all about if you want to be a good team is picking each other up and also being consistent every day. I think last week, for whatever reason, we weren’t at our best. We’re playing a team that is playing really well, at least from what I know of their team, and it didn’t look from our end or if you are a Vol fan.”
On the approach to the plate after going down early
“I think in general, you always get a competitive bat out of CMo (Christian Moore), but the guys that are in front of him and behind him, you got Maui, just getting more comfortable with accumulating at-bats. KT (Kavares Tears), is kind of in that category as well, and then Blake Burke, just didn’t look himself last weekend. Maybe it’s Missouri’s pitchers, maybe it’s the weather, maybe he did look like himself and I’m just looking for answers, but I think being sick for a couple of days maybe got him out of rhythm a little bit. Then you saw what he did tonight, he’s pretty special when it’s going good for him.”
On the outfield defense and Kavares Tears injury
“He hits that ball off the pitcher’s foot and really legged that thing out and I think he was a little sore with his hamstring. We were looking to put Book (Kyle Booker) in the game anyway, but we’ll check on him and see what’s up with that. He’s been taking as good of swings as anybody, and a lot of it’s just the work ethic piece. He’s had the strength, but finding that consistency is kind of a deal where it takes two to tango. We need to give him opportunities so he can stack up some reps, but also he’s worked really hard at his craft to kind of be more consistent.
“But those guys in the outfield, especially in the spring in college baseball, it doesn’t matter what field you play on, wind is an issue, so just catch it. It doesn’t have to look pretty, it doesn’t have to look like you are Mike Trout, just catch the dang thing. And we had a couple guys grind out some plays, a couple where they were near the wall and our guys were fearless, so that’s an encouraging sign.”
On Blake Burke breaking out of the slump with a home run
“It was freakish to see, to be honest with you because I don’t, sometimes that track thing, I mean it’s cool to put up there, the fans can see it, i don’t know if they put it on the board, but someone told me 4-whatever, I’m not buying it. That thing is sometimes accurate, sometimes not, and no disrespect to anybody, but that’s about as far as you can hit it. Actually, again you say it takes two to tango, you got a guy who has a good zip behind the ball, and he just ran into it perfectly, and it looked like it had a good jet pack on it. You only get one run for it, it’s not a slam dunk contest, but at the same time, it was pretty cool to see him take his best swing, because it’s a gorgeous swing, but an even better feeling for him to go home, because these kids, they listen to what you guys say too much. They read stuff and they want to feel good, so you know dang well getting in his car, he feels better about, it hadn’t been too long since he’d hit a homer or that feeling of really getting behind the baseball like he did tonight. I think it’s going to breed more confidence, and he’s already a confident kid.”
On the importance of winning to not put pressure on yourselves….
“I think really to be honest with you, it was why we didn’t meet after the game on Sunday. We had talked enough and everyone had saw what had happened on the field. Get back here in regroup, which for this age means going to class, getting some sleep, getting your bags unpacked, get to work – whatever you feel is necessary on an off day. On Tuesday, we needed a good effort and a team win. We did that. I think the guys, Wednesday and Thursday, just kind of staked on top of that. Good vibes or just some good work that was put in with some intent. I don’t think we ever got to that point, but it’s a fair argument. Maybe we should have. Again, it’s one of those things where you press the right buttons when you win. If you don’t, you feel like a dummy. They got good players, and we got good players. Fortunately, tonight we were able to win. And an extra x-factor could be being back here at our place.”
On relationship with Jim Schlossnagle from being at TCU together….
“Well the biggest thing about being at TCU was – the guy I spent the most time with as a player was Josh Elander. That’s kind of where that relationship has stemmed from. He didn’t have a lot of experience as a coach when we hired him, but you get experience by doing stuff. He was always doing stuff and was one of our hardest workers. The other thing – we re doing scouting reports and what’s funny is we signed Boomer White to TCU and he played for coach Schlossnagle there. He is now at A&M as their broadcast guy – their color analysts and actually does a good job. He was SEC Player of the Year and had to play against him. It’s not quite the big leagues where it’s the good ole boys club, where you get to first base and might as well make friends with the guy because he could be your teammate the next day. But you do run into guys in college baseball.”
On Seth Halvorsen’s Performance
“I think he had a little bit extra to him tonight, and part of that is just the natural progression. I mean he’s still coming back, now if he hears me say that he’s going to want to punch me, but he’s still kind of coming back. He’s building up pitch count, building up innings, building up repetitions, getting comfortable out there, especially because he’s used to being a starter, so he’s taking the ball whenever we get it to him. Having said that, there was also a little extra in general. He kind of went for the kill there, which is what you have to do if you have the lead, and that thing was coming out about as good as it can come out. It’s pretty exciting. If he’s there now, he and (Zach) Joyce are the two guys we keep talking about as coaches, if we like where they are at now, how excited are we going to be in May? And I don’t think he’s going to be a completely different person, but those two guys just keep making steady progress on top of what is already good stuff.”