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What Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Salvaged Weekend Series At LSU

Photo By Emma Ramsey/Tennessee Athletics

After dropping the first two games of its weekend series at LSU, Tennessee used a massive offensive performance to take the series finale 14-7 over the Tigers at Alex Box Stadium Saturday afternoon.

The Vols scored 10 runs in the first two innings and sprinkled in a pair of runs in the sixth and seventh inning, effectively holding off LSU’s high powered offense.

Tennessee’s pitching and defense could have been much better but performed well enough to claim the series finale.

More From RTI: Offensive Fireworks Push Tennessee Past LSU In Series Finale

On Saturday’s game and the series in general

“The series in general was all inclusive because what set us up for today was a little bit of the weekend. What I mean by that is Halvorsen and Lindsey being as good as they were out of the bullpen gave us some options out of the bullpen. Had some fresh arms go out there but also our guys knew if they fought they would stay in the game and also knew if they keep competing you’d like to think things would go their way but it’s not that easy. You can get dejected when you have a close one Friday, I’m sorry game one and you expect to come out and kind of answer back and we certainly did okay but we didn’t answer back. Back-and-forth series and I think if you were you got your money’s worth as a fan.”

On the importance of answering the way they did Saturday

“I think, we got our first walk off win last weekend against A&M and I’d like to think that;s kind of a signature win for the team and will maybe allow them to realize they can do that stuff in the end and you have to win your first road game. We had a pretty tough challenge there, a great environment, whatever you want to call it against Grand Canyon and then adverse circumstances up at Columbia, Missouri and we didn’t play well and then here, again, we’re in the game but they don’t give you any credit for being close. They were better than us for two days and I think to get the first road win means a lot. Now you know what it takes and what you’re capable of doing.”

On the differences in managing a low scoring game like Thursday and high scoring game like Saturday

“I got to be honest, it mind have been better to be up 5-1 than 10-1. You have a dangerous lineup that probably all of a sudden relaxes a little bit more. It’s different being up there when it’s 6-4 versus a little bit wider margin and defensively too maybe you end up doing something differently than you should. Every day in general has a different flavor but also the game once it starts it does. I’m not so sure you’re better off disregarding the scoreboard for a while. Especially on Sunday or game three in any league it usually gets a little crazy one way or another on game three and today had its own version of crazy and fortunately we were able to win.”

On if he feels like the offense is feeling itself

“You see the arms that we’re facing and look at the at-bats, they’re incredibly competitive. Obviously, you would like more production than the previous nights but I would say (LSU pitcher Griffin) Herring was the one blip on the radar screen. We knew him and along with everyone else recruited the kid. He was lights out last night. Other than that I’d like to think our guys were in the box as competitive as they are. Again, they executed better the first two days but the guy they ran out there to start the game today isn’t that far off from some of the other stuff they’ve got going on.”

On LSU Thursday night starter Paul Skenes

“Impressive. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say it’s surprising what he is doing. Everyone knew how good he was and he made a jump. If you really kind of look at things, when you’re making the commitment that an Air Force student is making, you’re beat down. Those people sacrifice. Not just with all the duties they have, but n the classroom as well with how competitive it is. When you free up some things and get some recourses dedicated to baseball, it makes sense that he would make the jump that he did. He was good. I think you see Halvy [Seth Halvorsen], [Chase] Dollander and that guy throwing one night and you’re a scout or you’re covering the game – you got some stuff to write about.”

On the velocity in pitching this weekend and in college in general

“I almost said it to someone over there, but you might as well act like this is 91 or 92 [mph], like it was back in the day. You’ve got some pretty extraordinary athletes on both sides. You saw a bunch of diving catches in the field. You saw a bunch of ridiculous plays. I don’t even know how Maui made that one even close that we reviewed. And then on the mound, just because they aren’t swinging at bat doesn’t mean they are not an athlete. So, you’ve got some explosive athletes who were competing in this series. Really, that’s what the league is all about. We saw one of our recruits– our signees – here and probably watching that out there on the field, he realizes he’s as talented as anyone in his class. But this is the real deal out here. This is serious stuff out here. So, again, good things for you to write about and good things for scouts to watch. The fans too. The fans made it a good series. 

On hitters facing high-velo pitches constantly

“You sink or swim. I don’t think you want to think of it that way if you are a hitter and you ask those guys, but you either sink or swim, and you have to figure it out. And now fortunately with the Trackman and stuff like that, guys kind of know what’s coming. They can train for it in the cage off all these fancy machines and things like that. But I just think, today’s athletes are in an extraordinary spot. I mean Q(uentin Eberhardt), our strength guy, what he’s done with some of our guys’ bodies and frames, but they’re already good athletes, and all these kids have good nutritionists and all this stuff, so you’re seeing all the fruits of that stuff on the field.”

On the highest velo he saw when he was playing

“I like that you say that. I often say that I was a bad player. There’s a guy named Kyle Edens from Baylor, and he was a closer and he would touch 97, maybe 98, and that was a massive deal. Not just in a game, but in the conference. It was the Big 12 then. And that was something that stood out extraordinarily. Here, amongst these two teams, I think you got 8 or 9 guys that could do that. So that puts it into a little perspective. I’m getting older, the athletes are getting better, and again, I did get a hit off that guy, and off Mark Buehrle, too, believe it or not. Those were my only two hits.”

On how this year’s team is different from last year’s team

“Now I’ll sound like I’m whining because I’ve said it a few times, but this group, like you guys talked to Zane Denton, and I’m not sure who else you visited with…(Jared) Dickey, he was a part of last year but he was injured often, and he was able to play a small role amongst a bunch of older guys. It’s his first year playing–I’m not saying he was hiding out–he was crucial for us, especially in a regional win that I remember. But these kids did not sign up for some of the battles they’ve had to fight. And I could list about 20 of them for you. Maui (Ahuna) is in that category, and this game is hard enough, this league is challenging enough, and then it’s already a challenge to begin with if you just took our team, and it was the first year of Tennessee baseball ever. But it’s been unique, and they’ve been navigating through it pretty well, but we’ve got a lot of progress that we honestly need to make.”

On where he’s focused on making improvements moving forward

“Base-running and outfield defense was a thing early in the year and honestly they’ve both improved tremendously. Part of it is getting personnel in the right area. If you were to ask me, ‘you get to pick one area,’ it would be — I don’t know that we’d get around a campfire or anything — but it’s just coming together. Be one of the guys. That’s not that easy to do when you haven’t been on the field playing next to a guy or you haven’t been in a program. So I think that’s an area where these guys need to keep coming together and write their own story. And a big part of it if they’re listening to this and they shouldn’t be, is blocking out the outside noise. That’s so hard to do for any athlete or any kid these days, but for this team in particular, if they could wall off what’s going on, and shake the fan’s hands after a series, but during the work week and during the games, if they could wall off what everybody is saying and make our group a little closer, that will be the area of progress that I would like to see most.”

On the performance of the rotation this weekend

“I thought (Chase) Dollander did not have his best stuff and by that, really command because the stuff was good. Normally he has spot on command but it wasn’t there and he battled through it which we appreciate, but you know with (Camden) Sewell and (Seth Halvorsen) Halvey and (Andrew) Lindsey, you’ve kind of got three other SEC weekend starters caliber wise down there. We don’t mind handing the ball off to the bullpen.”

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