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What Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Baseball Won the Series Against Georgia

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball head coach Tony Vitello met with the media following the Vols’ series-clinching win over Georgia on Sunday in Knoxville. Vitello shared his thoughts on Zander Sechrist’s elite start, Nate Snead’s ability to pitch well two days in a row, Dalton Bargo, the importance of rubber matches and more.

See everything Vitello said in the post-game press conference below.

On his thoughts of his team becoming the first team to shutout Georgia:

“It’s no surprise [that they haven’t been shut out yet]. That was a physical and impressive group in a lot of different ways. I think probably an underrated part of that position player group was some of the plays they made defensively. So, fortunate to win the series and you’ll take it anyway you get it. But to shut them out is difficult to do. I think what it was going to take was a play like Dylan Dreiling relaying to [Dean] Curley and then to Cal [Stark] – him doing his thing at the plate – you kind of need stuff like that and Kirby [Connell] and Zander [Sechrist] to pitch with so much courage. You need some extra things going on probably just to hold the offense down, whether it’s a zero or not.”

On how the defense was impactful:

“[Hunter] Ensley’s [catch] was insane. He went a long, long way on the run. I’d like to know how many yards he made from when he leapt to when he made the catch. It was incredible. He’s always acting like a goofball any time he makes a good catch in BP. That one he was as series as he could be after he caught it. Either way, he did catch it. It was a momentum swing. I think after both of those [relay play, too] we came in and scored. One inning we scored two and the other we scored one. It matters. I know today was a big basketball day. I know a lot of times basketball coaches will talk about your best offense being defense and that makes much more sense in a transition game like that. But even though it’s a slower transition, I think it matters. Our guys have some savvy on defense today.”

On what allowed Zander Sechrist to have success against a good lineup:

“I think step one was seeing his buddy, Kirby [Connell], do what he did. Maybe he and Kirby exchanged some words or thoughts – I don’t know. But I think seeing your guy do that – first of all, how are you not inspired a little bit on what Kirby did? Zander is a kid who is an answer to himself on who he is and how he goes about things. He’s one of many guys – we’ve touched on Trey Lipscomb and Kirby and others – other kids need to take example from him and see there’s real peace of mind and there’s a real victory in just being a good teammate. Being loyal to your guys and finding out how good you can get. Accepting the fact that there’s some adversity in this game and life in general. I think there’s a lot of peace in mind when you take that approach. Then you can also, and in Trey’s case you can get a lot of goodies, if you keep doing that you can kind of get the gold star if you want that adds icing on the cake. It’s kind of like our basketball coach [Rick Barnes], regardless of the result Zander is a champion and a superstar today. Nice little icing on the cake that he was able to do what he did today.”

On Snead pitching on back-to-back days:

“He’s a different guy. He’s super relaxed when he’s away from the field, not in uniform. In uniform, he’s what really every reliever epitomizes. It’s not like he can’t start for us and maybe will at some point, but you want a guy that wants the ball. A guy that has taken care of his body so that he’s resilient. He’s incredibly competitive when he’s playing catch, so I think it allows him to throw back-to-back days where his stuff doesn’t fall off too much. I think it was the first time we’ve done that this year where we used a guy back-to-back. Kirby is usually a guy where we might use three days in-a-row. Big benefit for us to have him on our team in general.”

RECAP: Zander Sechrist Deals as Tennessee Baseball Shuts Out Georgia to Win Series

On what he learned from his team this series:

“Resilient. Resilient. I think toughness is there and I think team chemistry is there. I think there’s some good togetherness. But when Friday goes on, it either expands a little bit or you come closer together. I don’t think our guys did anything drastic. I think they just stuck with what approach they have. Sometimes I sound really stupid when I say to be consistent you have to be consistent. I think if you let that scoreboard or the stat sheet you are waving in the wind a little bit one way or the other, that’s trouble. I don’t think they were deterred. They weren’t happy with Friday, and it was a little embarrassing, but I don’t think anyone was deterred. The resiliency factor there was huge and I think that was displayed at the plate today because their starter was so dang good. It wasn’t really a good offensive day and anything we really put together other than Bargo – but his was with two strikes and not the wind. Anything our guys did offensively was with some grit today.”

On the benefit of having a lot of rubber matches:

“It’s massive. It’s massive. I think it adds to the experience the next time you go around but also, it adds to your experience of why you signed up to play in the SEC. Because it’s going to be these back-and-forth battles and when you get punched, you get beaten up because they’re so good. And when you are able to win, it feels really good because you know you beat arguably the best. So, I think today, you could tell there was some ‘gratitude’ – it’s the word everybody throws around now when everybody is being Kumbaya – but I think appreciation or just gratitude for the opportunity today. The weather has turned. Even though we had that hoops game going on, we had a great crowd because the stadium is expanding. We have more seats. And why would you want it any other way? To play a team maybe we are 20 runs better than? It’d be fun, but it wouldn’t be a true test. I know what label was thrown on the group a couple of years ago… everybody’s doing all kinds of stuff. I don’t know if they were back then. But I think if you were going to label our team, which it doesn’t matter what other people think, I think appreciation for the fact that they are being tested. And they’re going to be tested a lot more.”

On the message to the team heading into Sunday’s game:

“Last night, we talked a little bit about just that. You have a great opportunity to do it at home just like we did last weekend and enjoy it a little bit. But you have to compete, and then we talked about competition a little bit. But maybe I was answering it in a long way the way I did because I want to make myself look smart. Other people said it, too, like ‘Hey, this would be a good opportunity.’ And Friday was crazy, and yesterday was crazy, but Sunday is the only day that matters once the sun comes up today, and it kind of came up a little bit on Easter Sunday. So, they did a good job executing whatever approach – we’re outnumbered – so whatever they had going on, it was dictated by the leaders, and they did a good job with it.”

On if Dalton Bargo has earned himself more opportunities:

“Yeah, and earlier in the year, we were down to like four guys that had played in every game, and he was the only one even though he hadn’t started every one. And then you get a couple of knicks and knacks, not just for him but for other guys, so when he’s healthy, he’s undoubtedly one of our top nine hitters, I can tell you that for sure. I want to keep everybody involved, want to keep everybody prepped, I want to keep everybody confident, so that’s a part of it. Then, when guys are healthy, we’ll go with whatever we think is the best thing for us that particular day. But, he needs to be ready at all times, whether it’s the start of the day, middle of the day, or end of the day, because he’s a really good player, and he’s a hell of a teammate. They’re all different personalities, but I’ve said it to you guys before, that guy is low maintenance, which I think I can say it’s rare these days.”

On Trey Lipscomb hitting his first-career MLB home run:

“It’s awesome. Now, he failed… he was on the plane, the guys were all jazzed up and same thing, things have been said and we get in trouble when we get delayed there with an interview and all the guys are waiting and clapping for our huddle, and I had my phone on me, and the plan was to FaceTime Trey so he could talk to the guys. And that would be whatever the final words were for the day, but he failed to answer. So he’s not that good. Not even he is that good. 

“But he epitomizes what I was talking about before, because it took him – he wasn’t really recruited a lot, and then there was a redshirt year, and then there were other good players in front of him, and then during some of his reps, maybe he deserved more of them, but also some of them he could’ve done better. There’s a building up process. I think part of that reason is what I was talking about with Zander [Sechrist]. You’re not going to meet a better teammate and a guy who is just head down and is going to continue to get better regardless of what carats or gold stars or what stat sheet you guys have. I mean there’s a lot of value into being the guy that’s on the poster or the guy that gets to do the post-game interview and all that, but that was never his focus. And I don’t think it ever will be even in his big-league career, which is going to last a long time. It’s nice he hit a homer today, but our video coordinator is the smartest guy we have in our building and see he said it. ‘As soon as they called him up, everybody on the Nationals got better, including the custodians, everybody, they got better because that guy is around.’”

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