Tennessee baseball dropped its series opener against Florida 6-1 Thursday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Florida took control of the game with a four-run fifth inning and the Vols never fully recovered as the Gators coasted to the series opening win.
Tennessee coach Tony Vitello talked the big inning, the shortcomings of the Vols’ bats and much more following the loss.
Here’s everything Vitello said.
On the offensive struggles
“Too many strikeouts is obviously the answer. If you go to the back-half of the game there or the ninth inning, we had fastballs to hit and did not, but earlier in the game, as firm as Sproat can throw the thing, up to 100 miles an hour — I don’t know what he was up to tonight. A lot of the outs we had were guys just being a little off the end of the bat or maybe chasing off-speed pitches that were not in the zone. Clearly there were opportunities, but nothing really spiraled in the right direction for us offensively to where we built anything. The one run we scored was where our guy got up there and had a little feistiness to him and ended up hitting the thing out of the park.”
On what made Florida starter Brandon Sproat so effective
“Able to throw the slider for a strike. Changeup is kind of a chase pitch for him and then clearly when you do have a fastball like that you have to respect that as a hitter. I can’t speak for him and I have a high level of respect for his stuff, but I’m willing to bet he says he didn’t have his best stuff tonight. I don’t know if he was cramping up or whatever. He kind of had as much guts to the outing as anything because we did have guys on base, there were situations where we could score, but with his back up against the wall, he found a way to get it done. Maybe we helped him out a little bit — a couple nice defensive plays that I can recollect. Maybe he gutted out the thing.”
On how frustrating it is to strikeout when it seems like pitches are down the middle
“It is. There were a couple where guys are just locking up. Those are the ones that you’re seeing that are the most frustrating. Too many minds. You can only think about one thing. It’s best to sit in there and think about nothing, but that’s pretty hard to do for those of us who have tried or played baseball. But if your minds racing or you’re trying to do a bunch of different things, or maybe there’s self-doubt for a minute, you’ll get exposed. I don’t have to throw out the SEC line. That’s just baseball in general. You’ll get exposed. It’s frustrating. Nest go around, maybe those guys need to press the reset button better in between pitches to be focused on that pitch that’s coming, but I think big picture is we all need to hit the reset button between now and 7:00 tomorrow night and be ready for a new game.”
On Chase Dollander and his high pitch count
“Ultimately, it gets to where he’s 95 (pitches) in the fifth inning and… if I was you, I would ask about the pitching because it didn’t go the way we wanted. Halvy’s (Seth Halvorsen) been pretty good for us, but it looked like that was going to be his last inning, and then once the first two things got on, it looked like it was going to take some real positives to happen for him to be able to finish the inning, so we go with the more fresh guy. But when Doe (Chase Dollander) was fresh, it was pretty fun. I think his attitude was in the right place. He was getting after some pitches. They have a stacked lineup, especially at the top, and they switch it a little bit to where they got the big three at the top of the order. But he was going really good, just needed to make a play behind him, but you’re never going to be perfect, so when that happens, again, on both sides you kind of have to gut through it. And he’s been known to do that for us, but the pitch count being a little too high was ultimately maybe what took him out of the game.”
On Dollander’s command and whether it’s been different in his last few strikes
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that. The last two nights he’s had three walks and you could probably count on., you don’t even need your whole hand or however you want to say it, there weren’t many occasions where there were more than two walks per outing last year. But he’s a strike thrower for us, and sometimes when guys swing and miss, it gets you deeper into a count, so maybe you’re more susceptible to walking a guy, but [he’s] just a little bit off. A little bit off. Tonight, I thought the mindset, the approach was really good. Execution, you could argue, was a little bit off. But, again, facing a heck of a lineup, and we just got to a point in a game where, I don’t know, I’d love to go back in a time machine and see if we leave him in there does he get the next two guys out and maybe even get out of that inning with a run or two scored. But I’m sure he’s frustrated and will have a little bit of extra determination going into next week.”
On the energy in the dugout following Florida’s four-run fourth inning
“The whole night it wasn’t— at no point was all the air sucked out of the dugout but there were a lot of points where if it was a boxing match the guy was kind of stumbling around a little bit and needed a second to gather himself and then get back into it. We talked in the outfield very briefly as a team. One of the things that was mentioned just so you guys know is there’s plenty of try hard out of this group. Then there’s a lot of emotions and sometimes they waiver on the positive side and sometime they waiver too far on the negative side. Probably getting a little too emotional sometimes can have you reeling and needing to refocus. If anything, I’d say it was good all game. I know the scoreboard doesn’t show that but there were kind of some moments where it took everyone a collective effort to get everyone back into it and needing a few pitches to do it.”
On if situational hitting issues were the same as regular issues
“The same issue. I don’t know that we had a guy at second base and needed to move him over with nobody out or a guy on third base and we just needed to drive him in so more than anything it was just putting it together. You talk about either winning at-bats or quality at-bats— however you want to quantify it— winning at-bats. And too many times we had a couple in a row and then nothing. One in a row and then nothing. Then a couple and a row… and you can even strike out and it still benefit us if it’s an AB where you battled— I’m thinking worst case scenario. A strikeout ain’t too good but there’s ways you can help the team win and move things in a positive direction even if you don’t hit the ball over the fence. We had a few too many at-bats that kind of stalled us out.”
On how he expects from Christian Moore to respond after a bad night
“I think determination is maybe the most valuable asset you can have as a baseball player. Maybe just in general but certainly in a lot of situations. But with this time in between it’s not like you’re going to come to the ballpark and still be frustrated. There’s too much time in between. Florida will have time at the hotel and have whatever itinerary they have as a road team. Our guys are not in school so they better show up to the park in a good mood because of that. But as it gets flowing into pregame and we get closer to first pitch our guys will have the juices flowing and it’ll either be an extra level of determination or that frustration will maybe still be lingering or they’ll think they got to turn into a whole new baseball player to win a game and that isn’t the case at all. Maybe a little more attitude. Maybe a little more determination not just out of him but everybody.”