Tennessee baseball capped off a fantastic week at the Clemson Regional by knocking off Charlotte 9-2 Sunday night.
The Vols swept through the regional with healthy wins over the 49ers bookending a thrilling extra innings win over Clemson.
Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed Christian Moore’s dominant week, the Vols’ growth and much more. Here’s everything Vitello had to say.
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“I think it bears repeating: An excellent job by the host team for a lot of different reasons. I am sure all the regionals are wild. This is the only one I am part of. That is how it is this time of year, so a lot of unexpected things. I think for our guys, their confidence has been growing as the year went on. I know they believed in themselves even though we were coming to a national seed’s site and a place that is always rowdy to play in no matter who the opponent is. Grateful to be around good players that make you look smart. More than anything, I am kind of enjoying the process. (ESPN’s Kyle Peterson) was mentioning it after the game on an ESPN interview, just the process of the team kind of increasing improving in areas as the year goes on. That is what it is all about.”
On what went so well for Christian Moore
“I mentioned it last night, talking about Clemson’s win streak. You can achieve great things and you can have outlying statistics, but at the same time, we are playing a game of so many repetitions. The guy is too good of a player. You are going to get explosive moments. There will be some challenges, too. There will be some things in the middle as well. I just think it is a case of a really good player doing what he is capable of. To me, I am a believer in things start before they started. Last night, it was interesting watching the guys celebrate postgame and taking in a little bit of it. There was one guy that was more about today than they were last night. I am sure maybe there were one or two others. The one who stood out to me was the guy to the right of me. I think if you want to be good at something or have something good happen, you are going to need to put in something even if it just some thoughts mentally ahead of time for that to go that way.”
On having road success this weekend
“It’s huge. To go back to Christian’s dad, I passed him on the way up here and he said he’s a better player than you so you might want to take away some of those positives sentiments but the positive sentiments for this crew are just figure different things out. Who can finish a game for us out of the bullpen? Who can do a variety of things. Who can get a bunt down for us? Our best guy (Ethan Payne) did it twice for us last night and so one of those things is what is the best version of our group on the road. To be honest with you, we don’t do anything to coach it but it’s been one of our strong points even starting with our first year once we got to Knoxville. For this group everything starting back in August when things were kind of awkward and it was like ‘where is this going?’ It’s truly been a cliche of a journey and I think it’s still moving forward and there’s still some things that can get figured out and if they don’t, as Christian mentioned, this time of year is find a way to get it done.”
On if Tennessee deserves to host a super regional
“I think the case is the way the city has handled (hosting) in the past. Obviously, it has good size and has handled many events. Heck, the events you get to go to in that arena itself. But then also what these guys have done on the field, competing in our league. I don’t know what you all were saying because I don’t read too much of it going into that game at Hoover, but I like to think if we won that game, we’re in the conversation for hosting one of these deals ourselves. It’s one of those things that is out of our control. I think we’ve grown as a program learning different things. Control what you can, and don’t worry about what you can’t. I don’t know where they’ll send us, if we’re playing on our field, which I do think we’re deserving of, but I do know our fans will follow. Coach Bakich made a great comment about the game last night about how our fans travel. Cautious to not take that for granted because it has kind of become the norm, even in your average game or a fall game even. It helps these guys and it makes it more fun regardless of how the outcome turns out.”
On the pitching staff giving up just eight runs
“I think we’re blessed with what we have. I mentioned something about coach (Frank) Anderson to Chris Burke and he said, with a wink, ‘It kind of helps when you have some dudes.’ It’s a different stable of arms you have down there, there’s no question. That’s why C-Mo said it was tough to face those guys, but I think he (Anderson) keeps it overly simple and yet he has even said it before. He doesn’t really have any rhyme or reason for why he’s had success as a pitching coach or why he can help guys, but there is no question he does. Unfortunately, being his co-worker means somebody is going to try and take him away from you every summer, including teams in the league, but loyalty is a big thing for our group and it’s been pretty cool how we’ve been able to keep the whole staff together, including coach (Josh) Elander, who I thought did some things in tight games. Today didn’t end up that tight, but he did some things tonight and last night that helped give us an edge as well. It’s fun to come to work.”
On making a third straight super regional after all of the early season struggles
“I think once it starts it’s a series. It’s an SEC type series. I don’t mean to discredit any — I don’t even know who the options are as far as playing, but at this point, you’re going to play a really good team and it’s going to be really competitive. So when it starts, you’re just trying to win a series.
“But if you’re talking about tonight when these guys go back to the hotel and tomorrow, a bus ride back, it needs to be enjoyed more because it was challenging. We’ve said that in team meetings. That when things are difficult and you have to really work for something, it makes it sweeter. And then I also think it prepares you a little bit better. That doesn’t mean if you could pick any one team, they’ve got an edge and the scoreboard is going to say 1-0 when it starts. But I do think because of some of the obstacles that these guys have had to climb over, go around, go through. It’s made them stronger and I think we’re still getting stronger.”
On how Tennessee was able to avoid a ‘big-game hangover’
“I don’t know. As coaches you don’t go to sleep because you’re kind of running things through your mind and trying to get ready for the next day. And I don’t want to admit it, but I guess as you get older, you kind of wake up not on the alarm clock, but when you’re used to waking up. So it’s a pretty short night for us, but I think these guys threw so much into it, you’re gassed out and they probably needed a little bit of a recovery. I was trying to have a thermostat out and see how these guys were in the cage and at the field. I think they were incredibly confident. We knew we were playing a dangerous opponent and there’s a lot of things at stake, but I thought it was pretty cool how even-keeled they were and how confident they were.”
“I’d be remiss — if I was good at making opening statements I would have applauded the competition. It’s nice when you play faceless opponents, or maybe even sometimes it makes it fun if for some reason you don’t like each other. We know the Lipscomb guys well. They’re class acts and had a great season. And then of course with Cam Fisher and we had to get past the (Andre) Lindsey thing and Cameron Hansen fortunately didn’t pitch against us. And then Austin Knight, a guy that was incredible in the dugout for us and always had ability and is showing it off at Charlotte. It’s hard, but it’s nice to see those guys. I think Clemson put together a miraculous season that is going to keep going forward under the guy they got. I’m kind of jealous of him to be honest with you. This is where he started and to get to come back is a pretty cool thing and a very wise move to have Coach (Jack) Leggett around, too. These guys need to enjoy tonight because three class teams and three good teams, but we were able to win the four-team tournament.”