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Everything Tony Vitello, Tennessee Players Said After Vols Beat Charlotte To Open NCAA Tournament

Tony Vitello
Tennessee HC Tony Vitello. Photo by Rocky Top Insider.

Tennessee made quick work of Charlotte Friday night, knocking off the 49ers 8-1 in its NCAA Tournament opener.

The Vols scored eight runs in the first four innings with consistent offensive production while Andrew Lindsey shoved on the mound in a seven inning outing.

Vitello discussed the performance of Lindsey, Tennessee’s offense and much more. Here’s everything the sixth-year Vols coach said following the win.

Tony Vitello opening remarks

“I don’t have anything in terms of opening remarks, but there’s 16 of these sites. I think I’m doing the math right. There are 16 regional sites that are different from one another, and everything has been really good. Obviously, you’re happier if you’re fortunate enough to win the first game – but everything leading up to it with the people has been outstanding. It’s been a good environment for the two games. I guess if I am going to say one thing about the game in particular that you might ask… it’s good symbolism that the guy sitting next to me (Andrew Lindsey) – and I think you guys interviewed Austin Knight as well – about familiarity on both sides. You guys can ask about that in more detail, but it’s just baseball. It’s the time of year when you just play ball. I think both sides did that and fortunately the guy to my right (Lindsey) was so good tonight and we came out of the gates on offense too to help him. But really, it revolved around his start. He made it a good day for the Vols.”

On what he knows about Clemson

“I’m glad you mentioned his name [Clemson coach Erik Bakich] – he’s about as organized and thorough of a guy as they come. I think his team kind of mirrored that this year, if you had the chance to follow them. We are all wrapped up in the non-conference games too, but our league play. We keep an eye on people and when you get the bracket, we look at all three teams. Lipscomb and Charlotte, maybe a little bit more familiar because of the guys. But when you look at them, they play organized and well-coached ball. They rarely make mistakes. Today, I know it was back and forth, but obviously there was some separation between the two clubs when we were hitting in the cages. We almost got hit with a ball.”

More From RTI: Everything To Know About Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament Opening Win
On if the group was less tense today than in Hoover
“A lot of it is perception. As a coach, you’re always watching, you’re trying to make observations, and sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong. For some of the individuals, and maybe even for the group, I think some of that [tenseness] carried over even to the next couple of days. We won our last series of the year, and we were in that game (Texas A&M). I know it was a frustrating game, but by the end of the year, some frustrations can build. And that’s why it can be a benefit to get that breather that we got. I know I got asked about that in Hoover, ‘Why is that a benefit?’ Well, you want to be prepared going into any game, and our league, the ACC, some other teams with the opponents they play, it prepares you. So the preparation part of the season is over with. It was good to get everybody back to neutral. I think it took a couple of days even past Hoover to get back to neutral just mentally, for sure, and then physically. Now there’s been this build up of just getting ready to play baseball again. Kind of a new opening day, almost, today.”

On how big of an at-bat it was for Christian Moore in the first inning to battle and hit a two-run double

“Yeah, it was big for us and big for him individually. Not quite to that degree, but there was an at-bat prior to that that was similar where he battled. I’ll choose to make it a parallel for something we kind of talk about with the whole team. Just compete. And he’d admit it. Sometimes you get caught up in trying to do too many things or get emotional about results. A day like today for all four teams, when you show up to the park, you don’t have time to worry about what your stats are or what could happen with this or that, or who is going to sit down and talk to you guys. You’re just trying to win. That dude, we’ve had some moments where we’d like to do some other things with Christian Moore, but that dude is as fun as any of them to be honest with you when we’re just trying to win.”

On Andrew Lindsey’s start

 “It looked similar to the last outing. You all mentioned the starting pitching — and really the bullpen increasingly got a little better. Just kind of inching along, a little bit better. To kind of pick up where he left off is what I was thinking. If you look at their home run numbers, it is different numbers and right left and all that, but a similar feel to South Carolina’s lineup. It was good for him to not just get us as deep into the game as he did because we rode the pitch count pretty good, but also for him to have to grind out some tough situations like the first inning and there were a couple others tomorrow.”

Andrew Lindsey

On his reaction when he saw they were playing Charlotte

“I think it was just business as usual. It is the postseason. Just play ball. No matter who we get we need to play good baseball at this time of year. When they popped up, it was just another team to go out and beat.”

On how many players in Charlotte’s lineup were there when he was


On what helped him get in a rhythm

“Just got comfortable. Cal is always good behind the dish. He is always telling me to take a deep breath or he notices some things in my mechanics, sometimes. He helps me adjust.”

On making sure it was business as usual

“Just stay to your routines. Just stick to what you have done. Luckily, I have been a starter for this team for a few weeks now. That helps me to continue what I have done in the past few weeks, especially with the week off and being able to get with coach A and Cal and two bullpens in between the two starts. Just being able to stick to what I have been doing.” 

Griffin Merritt

On what starting pitching success does for confidence of the rest of the team

“It’s always nice to play behind good pitching and we knew coming into this year we have really good pitching and you know those guys are just trending upwards. When you’re an offense or you’re out there on defense, sometimes I’m not out there on defense, just playing behind guys you know are competing is big. I kind of played both sides of it sometimes and it can be a little frustrating as an offense to get things going if it’s ‘how many runs are we going to give up?’ kind of thing. Here, guys are filling up the zone with good stuff and excited to play defense behind them. He (Vitello) sent a quote yesterday after Ben Joyce, (Zach) Neto or somebody held a tag when Joyce threw and worked hard for a hard worker type of thing so I think defensively we have guys on the mound that are grinding out games for us and that’s nice to see behind him that we’re making plays like Maui made that nice play up the middle late in the game. You could think, ah i’ll just let that thing dribble through but he’s out there grinding for those guys so that’s big.”

“As an offense, to answer your question, you know you’re never out of the game so it’s good.”

On what it was like to play in the NCAA Tournament again

“It was definitely exciting. Like you said it’s been four years now since I’ve played in one of these. I’m getting old. Happy to be here and happy to be playing right now. This team it was nice to see the offense come alive and get behind Andrew and he gave us a great start so as an offense it’s always easy to play behind a guy that’s out there competing and throwing strikes and this is a step forward for us and we had a week and a couple days off and used it as a good reset. I’m excited for tomorrow.”

On how much the offense took note of Charlotte throwing a lefty instead of its ace

“I think we just didn’t try to do too much. Everybody in Hoover was really excited to be there and play. Just a weird day. It was a weird game and weird day. Like he said, it might have carried over a few days for everybody to get past it. Personally I was a little eaten up because I have one SEC Tournament and really wanted to enjoy it but once I was able to turn that page and move past it and get ready for this week we were just excited to go out and whoever they threw we knew would be a good pitcher and we were just going to have to have good at-bats.”

On his emotions post home run

“I’m just happy to help my team win. Like I said, that’s kind of been the theme of what I’ve answered but Andrew is out there grinding on the mound and to just give him some more runs and as a team we’re just excited. All our energy is directed towards each other and just getting back in the dugout around those guys is just fun. Personally, it’s a cool thing but it’s really fun when you get to do it with guys around you that you enjoy playing with and everybody is trying to win. At the end of the day, we’re at the point of the season where we’re all just competing. To know I maybe helped us compete a little better is a good thing.”

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