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What Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Completed Weekend Sweep Of Bowling Green

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Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello. Photo by Rocky Top Insider/Ric Butler.

Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello said on Sunday afternoon after the Vols used a 16-6 run-rule victory to complete the weekend sweep of Bowling Green.

The Vols’ seventh-year head coach discussed the up-and-down performance on Sunday, managing pitching in potential run rules and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: How Tennessee Baseball Got It Done In Series Finale Win Over Bowling Green

On Derek Schaefer starting, how he’d assess his performance

“His performance was earned. He’s started before so there’s a level of comfortability there. I think we have a five-game week ahead of us so we kind of wanted to spread the wealth a little bit, but also the first two games just being seven innings kind of altered what we had originally planned a little bit. It’s what we went with and there was no set amount of time that he was going to go, it just wasn’t going to be a long outing. Fortunately, unfortunately his day set the tone in my mind for what the game was. It was fortunate and unfortunate. It was a lot of highs and a lot of lows and his first inning was tremendously crisp. Even the balls that were called balls or pitches that weren’t strikes were crisp. He was really good that first inning and fell off. Maybe with my message to the team— that we were going to use a whole bunch of pitchers— he wasn’t convinced he was going out that second inning but it wasn’t like he wasn’t out there competing. It just wasn’t a strong inning on his behalf. On high school and before his time is done here, he’ll have good enough stuff that he can get away with walking guys but (right) now that is not the case.”

On Cannon Peebles having a strong couple of games in a row

“Seeing him in here in the cage, I mean he got here way too early. I can tell you that. He was the first person even close to this facility. Even in this cage, see a guy laugh or you see a guy take a swing— you don’t want him to sluff it off. You want him to treat every opportunity to swing as an opportunity to compete, but you can’t treat one like it’s the end of the world and one like it’s no big deal. There’s got to be some consistency there and I think he’s fallen into that a little bit. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of saying and maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot but he’s most set to be an everyday player where he can settle in and relax. But the position he plays and how hard he plays, I think our team will be best served and eventually he’ll be best served when May and June, hopefully, rolls around for our program that he’ll be a little more fresh and yet he’ll have a lot of those repetitions that have accumulated as lessons learned as a freshman (at North Carolina State) and lessons learned as a sophomore that not only do you need to be intense and skilled but you need to be mature. And he’s probably one of the most mature kids we have away from the field. I just mean that in how you handle that level of intensity. Drew Gilbert went through it here and I said it on the radio— I’d rather have a guy whose fire burns to hot or who it means almost too much to when they’re going out there than not enough.”

On what went wrong for Matthew Dallas

“Just kind of cutting the baseball a little bit, and it was something that if you give him enough time maybe he self corrects or maybe between the last outing and this outing maybe if he gets some reps on the mound that aren’t game related he can work through it a little bit because he kind of picked up where he left off. And I don’t mind saying it, but baseball is a game where you jinx stuff if you say it out loud— he hasn’t given up a hit, if I’m not mistaken. If you look at the way Coach Anderson has coached guys and the best guys he’s coached— they give up hits. That’s the cost of doing business when you throw strikes. It would be scary, or a bad outing I should say, if it was a bunch of crazy things. I think it’s just one minor adjustment in there and he’s back to doing what he was doing. He’s pitched in the most intense game we’ve played in and he acted like a junior when he was out there in the moment, so one minor adjustment and hopefully back to that same kind of deal.”

On the Kansas State being a good midweek challenge

“Any challenge is good. It’s going to make you better. And that’s not just about preparing for league play, it’s about why you do this in general. And I feel like our guys put in as much time as anybody, so you not only need to welcome or celebrate challenges, you need to seek them out. But they’re everywhere. Every opportunity out here is a challenge, and I go back to my fortunate, unfortunate thing. Even advancing to second base when a ball doesn’t get caught, or the right reaction on a line drive, or sprinting through home plate, communication on defense, throwing strikes at the right time, all those things, those are moments of opportunity. The scorecard looks nice. The fans, I don’t know what their assessment would be, I guess it was a good game because they saw some offense, and it was nice weather. Augie Garrido’s name is behind me… if he was sitting in the stands today and actually watching the game, he would be very, very critical of our team. There were too many mistakes in there, and we just had enough talent to kind of wash over it. But there were too many mistakes embedded in there that were either a lack of mental focus or lack of hustle. And that ain’t good. I wouldn’t be standing here if my dad wasn’t always yelling at me to hustle, because I was a crappy player. So, if we’re worried about anything on Tuesday or Wednesday – we got five games this week – so we have five opportunities to make sure we hustle and to make sure you realize you’re competing when you get your chance because we got [Colby] Backus or whoever, if you don’t take advantage of your chance, there’s other guys who can pitch or who can play for us out there.”

On having Marcus Phillips get back on the mound

“It was nice to be out there. He had had a couple of different things literally from toe to head where he had not been 100 percent. So whether you guys know it or not, there’s been days where we have been eager to get him out there, but he’s – I don’t want to say on the shelf – but ‘let’s wait until the next day’ type of thing. So to get him out there was great. He’s really showing bigger and better presence out there each time he gets out there, which I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t have that when you are built like that and can throw the ball the way he does. But just repetitions is the key. He’s from the north, he’s had a couple of injuries in his career, you could even throw COVID in there, still in the mix, so just keep piling up the repetitions for that kid as it relates to his individual future.”

On Hunter Ensley’s long at-bat that resulted in a walk

“That’s who he is. I wouldn’t accuse him of pondering if he’s anything else, but he’s a fighter. Blake Burke has a really classic swing, or a real good-looking swing, everybody’s who they are. I mean CMo (Christian Moore) is as gifted mentally and physically as anyone. Hunter Ensley has talent, but he’s a fighter. And that at-bat epitomizes what got him in the lineup in the first place when we were looking for somebody. Really, we were looking for somebody who was not afraid of the wall. And so he became our center fielder. Talk about hustling on the bases, he always hustles on the bases. And at the plate, he’s always hit in his life. That’s what he was first known for back when he was playing with Blade Tidwell. But everybody at this level, they (Bowling Green) showed you that in the seventh inning, everybody at this level can hit a little bit if they’re in the lineup. But he’s a fighter. So, that’s who he is and, I don’t know, maybe he had thoughts about other things, but I think all these kids, if they stay true to their roots and stay true to what got them where they need to be, then they’ll be the best version of themselves.”

On the outfield rotation

“I think Colby Backus has shown he can base run as well as anybody just based on what he did today. I think wear e past the point where him being comfortable as an excuse. I think we are past the point on when is the best time to put Robin out there. I think he’s an outfielder – infielder and can do both very well. [Dalton] Bargo is getting into that deal too. It would be nice to know the exact depth chart or order, but we don’t have that. I’d rather have it that way. It means you’ve been recruiting the right way and Q [Quentin Eberhardt] has been getting guys where they need to be in the weight room. Beth, our nutritionist – I lose count but there’s six or seven guys out here that are doing very, very well for us. Reese [Chapman] is the one who hasn’t done what he is capable of. If you look at his summer numbers at the plate. I think sometimes guys let competition stress them out a little bit instead of relaxing and playing. The moment he does that, you’ll see his numbers improve there offensively. Having said that, he could be a defensive replacement or label him one of the best defenders out of the group.” 

On if Nate Snead will be used a lot against Kansas State on Tuesday

“He was down there today and I think his role is to pitch when the game is a little tighter. There are other guys too. It’s been interesting. Obviously, a couple of guys are sore and pitch counts haven’t been built up a ton. For me, it’s frustrating. It’s a little harder when you don’t know how many innings the game is exactly. I would just say I don’t know if I have handled the guys the right way. You can see that they are getting the repetitions and getting out here a decent amount. We are still kind of formulating who belongs where. I think it’s a good thing out offense did what they did this weekend because it allows us to look at these five games ahead and won’t be putting any heavy stress on anybody this early into the season.” 

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