Tennessee baseball has faced a heavy dose of adversity early in the season. They haven’t responded to it all well.
The Vols — who are replacing eight position starters and a number of critical bullpen arms — lost their first six games against strong competition and started SEC play by going winless in three tries at Missouri.
That made Tennessee’s series clinching victory over Texas A&M all the sweeter Saturday afternoon as the Vols overcame a three-run late deficit to walk the Aggies off in the ninth inning.
“That’s one that formulates you as a team and gets everybody to quit talking about other guys that have played here two or three years ago, and what we want to be,” sixth-year coach Tony Vitello said.
Tennessee showed an abundance of important things in each of its first two wins over Texas A&M but particularly in the series clinching victory. The Vols responded to in game adversity and their offense was a driving force when Tennessee needed them to.
But, perhaps most importantly, Tennessee is coming together and starting to become a team.
“It’s been a little up-and-down but I think, just seeing right now— we’re starting to become a team and it’s really cool to see, pretty fun to be apart of and today was something special and I think we keep building on this,” senior reliever Camden Sewell said.
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It taking time for Tennessee to build camaraderie after adding a handful of key newcomers and losing most contributors from last season is no surprise, but it is something that’s extremely necessary. Vitello has talked about the team coming together throughout the season.
“There’s less question marks and you just kind of show up to the park and play,” Vitello said. “As you do that, there’s going to be some things that happen. Like today, several situations where guys picked themselves up or picked their teammate up, or got picked up themselves. I think it’s happened naturally or organically which is probably the best way.”
After last weekend’s bad performance against Missouri, the Vols met on Monday to discuss things and make sure no one pushed the panic button after the poor start to the season.
“We kind of just discussed Ole Miss last year and where they were at at this time and what happened with them,” utility man Jared Dickey said. “Just going from there and saying we’re never out of the fight.”
College baseball is a long season and teams with as much talent as Tennessee are truly never out of the fight. The Vols are taking a major step in the right direction with back-to-back adversity filled victories. Becoming a team is a major part of that.