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What Tony Vitello Said Following Tennessee Baseball’s Win Over High Point

Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball extended its winning streak to seven games on Tuesday by knocking off High Point 7-4 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Following the win, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed Kavares Tears’ surge, Chris Stamos exiting the game with an injury and more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: How Tennessee Baseball Survived A Midweek Scare Against High Point

On Kirby Connell entering in relief and saving the day

“He did. He came in, in a difficult situation and I don’t think made it look easy, but he looked like he was throwing the ball as well as he has on that mound or any mound since he’s been here. Again, came in, in a difficult situation, and kind of turned the tide of the game. Not just for us on defense, but kind of carried over offensively and went out there and got some big outs. You know, really, probably got greedy extending both of those guys (Connell and Nate Sneed), but they were throwing the ball so well, it’s kind of hard to argue with leaving them in there. I think the only mistake he really made the whole night, wasn’t — you’re going to give up singles, but I think he forgot he was Kirby and tried to be Snead on two-strike pitch if he watches the video or maybe he remembers it himself and tried to do his best Snead impersonation with two strikes and the guy got it pretty good to centerfield. They had a whole lineup of those guys. That if you got outside of who you were, you made mistakes, or gave free bases up, they were going to make it a headache for us.”

On sophomore lefty Andrew Behnke having to get hot in a hurry

“I mean, that’s the old, get a huge, emotional out and then you need to kind of reset one way or the other. I don’t know what Redmond Walsh did. I wasn’t a pitcher at a high level, so you gotta do whatever you gotta do to center yourself after getting that emotional out and having everybody storm out of the dugout and high five to you. I wasn’t good enough to do that at this level. I can only imagine what the feeling is like, but you have to find a way to center yourself, whether it’s knowing who’s up in the lineup, or getting with your catcher, or just getting a drink and getting your breath, or go through your routines. But I thought Behnke was equally as good as he was, or just as good as he was on Sunday for that moment. There wasn’t a lot of room for error. It was obvious they were going to give us heck all night. I think I can say hell. HE-double-hockey-sticks all night, so rather than let him work out of it, we went to a fresh arm. Somebody who didn’t throw much on Sunday.”

On what he learns about his team in a chippy midweek game

“I think you learn a few things. We got off to a good start because we got off to a good start today. Whatever it was, we actually had workouts Monday instead of tomorrow. Tomorrow will be an off day. It was a longer weekend. It was chilly but that was as much energy and focus as they’ve had coming to the park, starting off with a bang but it’s baseball. Things aren’t going to go your way. It wasn’t a very offensive day and those guys are slugging it out with us, so it turned into a heated battle in pretty quick fashion. So I think the thing we learned the most about the guys is in a tight game, like (UNC) Asheville, like Oklahoma and the Texas Tech game— we’ve been in a few of these now— even all the Albany games through the fourth or fifth inning were competitive. So it’s been fortunate that we’ve gotten tested the way we have. Or we’ve been fortunate.”

On Chris Stamos exiting the game with an injury 

“That was a deal where we were going to make a change no matter what so I let Woody (trainer Jeff Wood) go out there and assess the situation and then the guy coming in gets as much time as he wants to warm up, for anyone that was watching. And he can warm up in the bullpen or on the mound and I think (Andrew) Behnke did a little bit of a combo of those two things. Maybe it was a Cookout combo platter. But the arm was fine, I think. I think his forearm was a little sore or maybe bicep. But Woody went through some things and hopefully all things stay the same. But I think some soreness and some tightness in there from a guy that is interesting. He wasn’t sandbagging on us in scrimmages but you guys were at scrimmages and you guys are now at games and I think you all would agree with me, he’s a different competitor on game day which is great.”

On what’s allowed Kavares Tears to get off to such a hot start to the season

“I think the same as what allowed him to get off to a hot start in the fall. Those early scrimmages, he was our best hitter. Then like any baseball player, like CMo I don’t think had his best night offensively but how many nights has he been our best offensive guy and then someone else will be the best offensive guy on Friday. SO there’s ups-and-downs but if you look at his fall he was our best hitter. It slowed a little bit but since he’s been back, his physique has been different, his mentality has been different, his attention to detail— like things on defense has really progressed since he was a first year kid here, and then as of late where I think it’s really going well for him is using the whole park. If I’m in the other dugout or I’m a pitching coach and I see him hit the ball to right the way he did and the ball off the wall in left, I’m kind of frustrated.”

On the Matthew Dallas start

“I think it’s the first time he’s been out there a little bit longer. I know the way the kid thinks. He expects excellence -m I don’t want to say perfection and put words in his mouth or assume. He’s mature and confident, which I like. He’s got high expectations and it started slipping and sliding a little bit on him there and kept going in that downward spiral instead of him being able to self-correct. The one thing I do know and I’ll say with conviction, often freshman are a little slower to make an adjustment whereas sophomore year, instead correcting form one game to the next, a hitter can do it from an at-bat to an at-bat. Or a pitcher maybe, like Dallas, making an adjustment from hitter to hitter or inning from inning – they can do it pitch by pitch and that’s what a guy like Kirby [Connell] and Sytam [Chris Stamos] can do. I think Snead would admit too, a progression he’s made since freshman year to now has probably been able to self-correct a little bit. You’ve got to be able to coach yourself up on the field. We get a minimum amount of time outs – really, we don’t get any offensive time outs. You only get a couple of mound visits from us and we don’t really like to take them to be honest with ya. You’ve got to empower yourself and coach yourself and I think this will be a good lesson to learn for him and probably in the bullpen it’ll be what he is working on.”

On Robin Villeneuve’s performance

“Yeah, they were big [RBIs]. The best swing of the night was Alex Perry for either team. I think their guy who drove the ball of [Nate] Snead there late, could make an argument. But my favorite swing was Alex Perry’s and we didn’t get anything out of it. He hit it right into the teeth of the wind. Sometimes you’ve got to pay attention to what your circumstances are. Who is on the mound and what is going on with the game. And with a game like this, you’ll take it any way you get it. A couple of hose weren’t necessary really hard barrel balls or hit really far, but they were enough to get it down. I think guys had ‘get it done’ approach in a lot of at-bats, but his at-bats are the ones that worked out in our favor. We are always trying to encourage out guys. We just want guys to compete for at-bats that out beneficial to the team. If you keep stacking those up, the percentages will waiver in your favor.”

On the pitching plans for this weekend

“[Drew] Beam will pitch on Saturday. AJ [Russell] obviously threw so well against Texas Tech, but we are reverting back to the first weekend. The one thing we do know is the consistency of Drew [Beam] and we trust him to be the rock in the middle of the week for us. I think Sunday will literally be a wait – maybe even Sunday morning – to see how guys feel. So, that will be those two days. I think by Saturday, guys like Kirby [Connell] will be ready to come back or some other guys will be fresh. Friday is going to be who can get outs for us. I don’t exactly know when [AJ] Causey will get them, but he’s kind of been a Friday combo guy with AJ [Russell]. So, he’ll pitch in some capacity, and we will need him to get out here. It will be fun for him because the game ended against [Texas Tech] and the other game his outing ended really before he hit a pitch count limit. So, will entrust the ball with him in some form or fashion for a good amount of time. But here’s going to be some other guys that need to be hungry to get out here and just get outs for us = whenever they are and however they can get them. [Aaron] Combs was hot and that was [Nate] Snead’s last hitter, so I’m sure that feeling of being hot and wanting to go into the game will carry over to Friday for Combsy.”

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