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What Tony Vitello Said After the Vols Evened the Series Against Georgia

Tony Vitello in Tennessee Dugout // Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball head coach Tony Vitello met with the media following the Vols’ 16-11 win over Georgia on Saturday in Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Vitello shared his thoughts on the action-packed win, including Kirby Connell’s great relief performance, Dylan Dreiling’s ability to rise to the occasion, Blake Burke, Drew Beam’s poor outing, how his team responded after a loss on Friday and more.

For a full recap of the game, click here.

More From RTI: Tennessee Baseball vs. Georgia Game Two LIVE Thread

See everything Vitello said below.

On his thoughts on his team after a gritty win:

“To be fair to them, that is kind of the approach that they’ve had throughout the year. They were challenged back in the fall to show that they kind of had that. This sport has so many repetitions that pile up. I don’t think you can judge an individual, a group or the team itself based off one day or one thing – or anything like that. It will be something they can hang their hat on in that category for sure. I would say I’m more proud of Kirby [Connell] than anything, not that there weren’t a lot of guys doing stuff. But that was the ultimate sign of some grit there.”

On Kirby Connell’s career outing:

“Yeah, to come in and pitch with the courage that he did when the game was kind of chaotic for both teams. The wind was doing different stuff and both teams have good offenses. We lost last night in a fashion that no one is proud of. You add all that up and then a couple of breaks – they aren’t all going to go your way and it doesn’t matter who you are – but they didn’t go his way. The biggest thing was he was out of gas at the end, physically. Mentally and with courage – grit if you want to call it that – he’s got a full tank of it at all times. Would have been fun to leave him out there for his sake to see how things could have went but he was out of gas for a while. There’s a lot you can say about that outing. What we said to the team out there [outfield], there’s no coincidence that the definition of a good teammate Trey Lipscomb gets his first Major League hit today and Kirby was able to come out here and have an outing that he’s able to hang his hat on.”

On Blake Burke tying the home run record:

“He’s gifted with some ability and I know his swing has been compared to a few different people. The interesting thing – recruiting is a whole different topic, especially this weekend – when you do go out recruiting and scouting, I remember especially some guys that were in his category. That’s a pretty good category but there’s a lot of other guys. Some are still doing elite things and others aren’t having as much success as him. I think it happens here [batting cages]. My point is, he is real gifted but I think he’s a better worker than he is player, as far as skillset. There’s plenty of skill there for him to make it all the way to the big leagues, but it’s been refined by a big-time work ethic and a will to win that’s pretty special. That will to win is something I wish we could bottle up and keep here for a long, long time. Bring up names like Trey Lipscomb – Blake kind of has that same will.

On Dylan Dreiling coming through in big moments time after time:

“Yeah, he’s got a little David Ortiz in him if that’s the right guy or the way to describe it. I think ability is there but also, he seems to want to be in those situations. He’s able to keep calm. He’s got a lot more fire in him I think than a lot of people realize. I think he does a good job of keeping calm when you have to have it. Today that crowd got pretty loud. It’s a sidebar topic but last night was one of our best crowds we’ve had because we’ve expanded the stadium and the weather cooperated for a little bit. But tonight’s crowd seemed to be bigger in number and louder – regardless of what results were going on. He was able to keep calm when the crowd was going crazy and then he made them go more crazy.”

On going to Dalton Bargo as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning:

“It was a matchup thing but also it’s been frustrating to sit there and not have free reign at using him because he’s so gifted. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out he can help us win ballgames in a variety of ways. Playing third base. He’s played right field. He has DH’d and eventually will catch. He has just been sore. I do think our support staff does a crazy job of looking after these guys and part of that is trying to make sure we don’t put them in harms way. I think he is hopefully kind of over that ting and able to run around freely.”

On Dylan Dreiling’s mindset being so good in big moments:

“I think the development part is just him being comfortable in his own skin, which you come into a new environment – he’s from the smack-dab middle of Kansas – and then you come over to Tennessee and then all of a sudden, you’re dropped into the middle of SEC games and things like that. You have to realize that you belong here, and the best way for you to thrive, not just belong, is to be who you are and stay true to your roots and what got you here. And he’s always been a successful hitter, and he’s made himself a better version of a hitter with his work in the weight room. He and Reese Chapman are close buddies. Those two guys have increased their physicality greatly. And you can see in their dugout and in our dugout, it’s almost a requirement to have success out there. At the end of the day, it’s just him being himself. But that’s easier said than done. There’s freshmen all over the country that are trying to find that missing link of being true to who they are.”

On how the team was able to ‘settle in’:

“You’re just asking the question, so not knocking it, but I don’t think ‘settle in’ is the word. I think it was that there was a lot of passion for each other. I mean it was represented… Coach Barnes’ team obviously won last night, and they’re always so quick to pick guys up off the floor and to coach each other, and when Blake Burke went diving into that camera well, our guys almost had a panic attack and all sprinted over there. So I’m just trying to give you an image from my mind. I do think that this group has passion for competing and playing for one another, which is a key ingredient on a day like today where you get punched in the gut several times last night and then a big one today, but they just kept going. So I don’t think there was ever a fire started, and I don’t think there was ever any quit. I think it’s just been ‘keep going.’ And sometimes the scoreboard shows you a “thumbs up” or “good job” and sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to keep going. And back to my original statement, I think, if anything, they’ve shown that this year. I think they have that box checked. But, reps. You have to do it again, do it again, do it again.”

On Drew Beam’s poor outing:

“It seemed to be, and I haven’t discussed with him or talked with Frank [Anderson] about it, but it seemed like some thoughts started to interfere with him executing pitches how he normally does. And he throws so many strikes that he normally gets hit every now and then. You give up some hits. It’s like last night, [AJ] Causey, you go out there enough, you talk about repetitions… I’ve had the good fortune – well the schools I’ve worked at, it’s been easy to recruit to – I’ve been around some good pitchers, and almost all of them have had that happen where they kind of get run out of there early. But I think tonight it was without Drew [Beam] putting his best foot forward. Which, he’s got every piece of the pie you want in the makeup category, but it seemed to be like something interfered with him executing pitches the way he was capable of, whether it was negative thoughts or being hung up on a moment that happened in the past or something like that. So I’m anxious to see how he pitches next weekend, because I think that both of those guys are guys that we need to realize how lucky we are to have them, in Causey and Beam, and I’m also look forward to the answer that’s coming when there’s a little extra determination from this weekend’s frustration.”

On the pitching plan for Sunday and an update on AJ Russell:

“Nothing specific [on Russell] because with the swelling in there and his arm, nothing has been very clear-cut, like this is the answer and this is the amount of time. So I will hopefully have a better answer for you at the end of the day tomorrow because our training staff and I are going to go over a few guys in the morning. But with pitching, [Aaron] Combs hustled down there and was ready behind [Nate] Snead, so he’s fresh. And Snead of course, he’s going to come to me tomorrow the first thing in the morning and say ‘I want the ball, I’m good,’ and all that stuff. He just has that kind of mentality, and our left-handed pitchers in [Dylan] Loy and [Chris] Stamos and [Matthew] Dallas and Zander [Sechrist] are all available. So I will kind of let the feel-good or the emotion of the win die down a little bit and start to strategize a little bit. It’s kind of nice that it’s 2:00 p.m. ET instead of 1:00 p.m. ET tomorrow. You get that extra hour. Early Happy Easter to everybody, especially those fans that make the decision to watch the game on their phone, the hoops game that is, and sit in the stands here and watch what I think are two of the really dynamic clubs in the nation. I know there’s others. It’ll be fun to play a little Sunday ball.”

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