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Everything Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Earned Series Opening Victory Over LSU

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

Tennessee baseball earned a series opening victory over LSU on Friday night, knocking off the Tigers 6-3 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville.

Billy Amick made his return to the field, homering on the first pitch he saw while AJ Causey got back on track after two rough outings.

After the victory, Vitello discussed what went right for Causey and much more on the Vols’ wins over the Tigers. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: How Tennessee Baseball Got It Done Against LSU In The Series Opener

On the difference with AJ Causey tonight

“I hate to oversimplify it but he’s the same guy. Same stuff with a little better execution. This is the SEC and they are going to get you sometimes. Hopefully you can get them more times than not. I think maybe a little more belief led to a little more execution or a little more simplification – also let to a little more execution. He was great for us. I don’t know that we had one specific script, but we were willing to kind of just go inning by inning. Both guys that started the game for us made it very difficult to take the ball away from them – which is a good thing.”  

On when he knew that Billy Amick would play

“It was two weeks, give or take. That was what was suggested. No disrespect to Tuesday’s opponent or anything but we are kind of in the midst of league play. It was really all about where we were at with the Auburn series, and it just didn’t make sense. I think he could’ve. I know he was telling people he wants to be out there and he’s kind of got that attitude. He is a tough kid, let’s put it that way. It just didn’t seem to make sense on the road there, so we felt good about him playing but didn’t want to come forward and speak for him. I think he’s got a long career ahead of him, and obviously we have some season left, but the sooner we get that guy back the better. He showed why.”

On decision to start Chris Stamos

“He was great. We wanted to finish Tuesday’s game and he was actually hot but the situation just didn’t come up. Wednesday, we started from scratch with some conversations. We wanted to wait until Thursday was over with. A couple of guys threw off the mound and continued to have conversations to see where everyone was at. Had an idea that was what we were going to do and finalized it this morning. Just felt like he’s got experience but also, [AJ] Causey has been a great teammate for us and has led the way. He was in need of a great teammate to kind of relieve a little stress for him. There’s not a better teammate here. There’s some irony to him pitching in this game. Long story short, he was the last guy we added to this roster. When it was finalized – I just kept saying from my conversations with him on the phone – I’m just so happy he’s a part of it. I don’t know how he’s been with you guys [reporters] and if he’s been as creative as those other idiot lefties we have. He’s just an awesome dude. I don’t know what he’s going to do and hopefully someone gives him a pro opportunity, but it’s not going to matter. He’s going to be successful in life. I know he’s still got ties to Cal, but we’ll be wanting him to come back here a lot because he’s a great dude. I think he was a great teammate tonight more than anything.”

On having conversations with a guy on starting or coming out of bullpen and how that affects their confidence

“It’s case by case. And with him, we knew it when we sat down. His family is always upbeat and positive, and he carries the torch in that category, so with him specifically, he’s just going to line up and walk this way or line up and run this way. He’s going to do whatever you ask. But I think there is a little bit of an assurance there of… when you start a weekend, you’re kind of looking at how many pitches you need to finish a three-game series. And you want this guy to be available for this, and I think one thing he needed to be reminded of is ‘Regardless of when you do it, if we’re going to be good, we need you to throw 70-75 pitches for us in a weekend.’ And I think he got close to 100 because he was really good tonight.”

On the simplification of throwing elite pitch after elite pitch for a pitcher

“You have to understand what’s in front of you, and it’s usually just that pitch. And I think you saw it tonight – it was crazy. A little bit sloppier than I think both sides wanted at times, and not the cleanest finish. But again, it’s our league, they’re college players, they’re 19 or 20, some of them. There’s going to be crazy stuff that pops up, so you have to center yourself and focus on ‘What is my actual task?’ And then whether you are [AJ] Causey or Kirby [Connell] or [Chris] Stamos, and whoever else it could be, if that’s the task and you’re the guy out there, that means everybody that is wearing this (a Tennessee) uniform, you’re representing them. So you’re probably worthy of being the guy to attack that task. So maybe a little bit of self assurance and also a simplification of knowing what you have to go do.”

On the importance of AJ Causey getting a confidence boost by having success in a tight spot

“I think it brings him back to center because he’s worked so hard and he’s got really good stuff. Our guys have told us that, who have had to hit off him. It’s not an easy look as a hitter but he got kind of away from being at center or kind of being in neutral. Whatever you want to call it because some things spiral on him in the wrong direction and I think you need a little bit of— it’s one thing for me. I can’t just call him in the office and say, ‘hey self assurance’ and pat him on the back. You have to get some feedback from the game so I think it was big for our team for him to do what he did. I think it’ll bring him back to center and realize that it is a great league. It’s a really talented roster over there and whenever he throws again he’s going to be against another talented roster but he is talented too and you hook it up and find out who is better and if it wasn’t you then lace up the bootstraps a little tighter I guess and if you do get them realize it’s because you can do it and he’s fully capable of being able to do anything we ask of him.”

On how important Billy Amick’s home run was for his confidence in his first game back

“It hurt my heart because I was calling him Coach Billy. He was sitting right next (to me). So it was depressing for me in a way as he returned to player status. He was fun to have in the dugout. He really approached it the right way and kept guys lose in the dugout and was a good communicator and it was almost eerie or weird how seamless of a fit he is for coming in as a transfer. But for him I think we gave him a couple live pitches. Derek Schaefer did a good job of throwing to him. He faced him twice and when he got done he said, ‘it looks like it always has’ meaning just because he took a couple weeks off it’s not a different game or anything different. While the home run was an awesome welcome back and he enjoyed it, it was kind of a typical night for him. He made a nice defensive play for us, I think. Could have made another but he was playing ball.”

On Causey and Kirby Connell each getting out of bases loaded jams

“It was almost like we were going to let Stam(os) take the baton and for the record he’s not related to John Stamos. I think he is equally as good looking, but he’s going to take the baton from Causey and start the game and then it kind of led in to those two guys handing it off and they’re good players. Otherwise they wouldn’t be out there but I hate to pump someone’s tires but that’s a pretty good trio of guys and you guys work hard at watching our scrimmages and being around our kids. If you’re going to trust a guy, Causey is a pretty good one. Then if you’re going to trust a guy to hand it off, we have— if our new women’s basketball coach is trusting Kirby (Connell) to catch her than certainly we can trust him to be out in that situation.


That was pretty cool and it only, I won’t say gets better from here— maybe in the baseball category— but with Todd (Helton) throwing out the first pitch tomorrow that will be equally as exciting I should say.”

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