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Tony Vitello Addresses Sixth Inning Exchange Against Austin Peay

Tony Vitello
Tennessee HC Tony Vitello talking to the media in Knoxville. Photo by RTI.

A chorus of words being exchanged at home plate momentarily slowed down the game between Tennessee and Austin Peay on the diamond in Knoxville on Tuesday night. While the incident did not result in any sort of situation taking place, it was a fascinating moment between both teams in the middle of a tense mid-week game at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

With Tennessee at the plate leading 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Christian Moore stood in the batter’s box with two outs on the board and a runner at first base. Moore roped a line drive over the head of the right fielder as Blake Burke, the runner at first, rounded all the bases and headed for home. The throw from the Governors’ outfielder came in hot and resulted in a bang-bang play at the plate with Burke sliding into home. Burke was called out by the umpire for the final out of the inning.

The Austin Peay pitcher, senior Paul Rector, immediately ran up to Burke and said something to him that the umpire didn’t like. The umpire behind the plate quickly ran up and removed Rector from the situation as the pitcher continued to shout words.

This resulted in a handful of players from both Tennessee and Austin Peay’s bench wandering out toward home plate. While the two sides never came in contact, both did bring some teammates to the party. Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello and Austin Peay head coach Roland Fanning quickly dispersed the players crowding home plate.

There was never really a sense that anything was going to break out as it was mainly just talking going on. Vitello confirmed after the game that no one on either side was really too hot about the situation despite players walking onto the field to see what was happening.

Tennessee Tony Vitello
Tennessee and Austin Peay in the 6th inning. Photo via ESPN broadcast.
More from RTI: Tennessee Outlasts Austin Peay For Midweek Victory

In the aftermath of the play, Tennessee outfielder Hunter Ensley was ejected from the game, but that decision was then immediately overturned as Ensley returned to the outfield.

Tony Vitello spoke about the situation after the game from his point of view:

“It’s a double with two outs, so more times than not, you are going to send the guy and make the team play catch because you already got a hit with two outs, and it’s not that we don’t trust the guys behind him, it’s just percentages,” Vitello said. “Unfortunately, we have one of our least fleet of foot guys running, and they did a good job of playing catch. So, he (Burke) tried to slide underneath the tag.”

Vitello then continued on.

“I didn’t see anything at all, and I don’t know that the catcher did, either,” Vitello said. “Maybe it happened faster than I saw, but the pitcher, to me, he got all fired up… he could’ve thanked us. We got him an out there. I think the umpires did a really nice job. Guys are out of the dugout, and they’re not supposed to leave their position, but they’re all on the dirt, or the brown part of everything, just because they see something is going on. But again, I didn’t see anyone react except for one person.”

Tennessee defeated Austin Peay by a score of 9-4 on Tuesday night.

Watch the full answer from Tony Vitello after the game on Tuesday below.

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