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Everything Tony Vitello Said After Bellarmine Win, Previewing Kentucky Series

Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball knocked off Bellarmine 20-5 in a midweek rout on Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville.

Following the win, Vitello discussed the win, previewed this weekend’s series at Kentucky and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: What To Know About Tennessee’s Midweek Win Over Bellarmine

​​On what he liked from Reese Chapman in the win

“The Superman catch in right field, I guess, if anything, it deserves to be on SportsCenter, But he was equally as good at the plate. He’s just — it’s just really beneficial to have him around for so many different reasons. He’s such a good kid in the classroom, and then coming over here to the field, he’s a great teammate, and then when he gets out there, he’s ready to rock and roll.”

On what it says about Chapman to keep working as hard as he has while not playing

“I think it means he’s going to have long-term success. I know we’ve talked about Trey Lipscomb at nauseam in here, but he’s the good example, too, of regardless of where it’s going to be, he’s going to find happiness, he’s going to make money and he’s going to have success because of how he goes about his business everyday and then more than likely, because he’s athletic, he’s going to make money doing that. I’m referring to Trey, but I’m also referring to Reese, and I’m also referring to anyone else that kind of goes about it that way. He sees a lot of value in things in addition to making a Superman catch or hitting a home run. And that’s what I’m referring to when I say it makes him special, but as far as fans, they don’t get to see as much of that stuff. They’re just watching and they want the Vols to win. He can help us win.”

On how good it was to get freshman RHP Derek Schaefer out on the mound

“It was good because last time, we run out of innings to play on a Tuesday where we only played seven. We’re now up to three total games we’ve lost (because of the run-rule). We’re allowed to schedule 56 (games), but not matter how many regular season games we play, it’s going to be 53 at the most. So he got cut short, he’s forced to face guys on Wednesday the following day and I think it’s much better even if it’s short term to get out there, calm the nerves and also be able to contribute.”

On if it was just a day off for junior infielder Christian Moore

“Yeah, he was ready to pinch-hit at one point and same thing for (Hunter) Ensley. We wanted to start the game with some left-handed hitter against their starter, just trying to win the first inning. We know they’re going to use a bunch of guys and we are too. And then also trying to get creative on how to keep Ariel (Antigua) involved. I think he’s shown why he’s got value at the end of the game on defense. But with him missing a lot of the very beginning of the season, we’re still trying to play catch up there.”

On what he knows about Kentucky

“I am a little short on info, but you get halfway through the year and you start to hear some things and see some things. Hopefully I’m not jumping to conclusions, but a pretty big carry over from last year. Their pitching coach does a great job, and their guys throw strikes. And part of that is that their park is a flip opposite of their old park and plays very friendly to pitchers. So, there’s kind of some forces at work there with the pitching staff. And then on top of that, there’s a lot of pitchers back from last year. It was a good staff, and they just flat-out have good stuff. You can probably start with that, but there’s also some guys on the offensive end there that have really put to practice what they are trying to do, which is come at you from a bunch of different angles. Whether it’s bunting or just finding their way on base or just stealing bases. That’s what we saw last year. A complete offense and a proper pitching staff, or a pitching staff you would be proud of if you were a part of that squad, and you combine the two, and you got yourself a competitive team. I don’t know enough to study the defense, but when you have good athletes that are playing hard, they’re probably capable there, too. Again, it is kind of flipping from their old park to their new one, it is a home-field advantage, too. There’s some unique things going on there. I’ll leave it at that. They’ve won plenty on the road, but like a lot of teams in our league – pretty much all of them – it’s always more of a challenge to go on the road and see what you can do.”

On coaching against a team that runs well

“I think it can come up in practice, but you only have so many days. If you play a Tuesday game, and of course we travel, too, there’s only so much time with our guys, so you want to be efficient with your work and your conversations where, not just that, but what is something unique that goes on here? And we want to put ourselves in a position – we played earlier, it was [Bobby] Peirce from Auburn – ‘Don’t run on him’ [is what we told the guys]. We talked about it, we addressed it, and we only had a short window and explained it and used examples, but we did it anyway. And our guy, who is not fleet of foot (Blake Burke), but gosh dang he can hit, he was safe at third. I probably took him out of the game too early tonight. But he was safe at third. We’re just trying to put him in a position to succeed, and I’m making light of it, but there’s a lot of different things each team does well, and then there’s – with this league – there’s some guys that do things extremely well. You try and point it out to the guys, and then you just have to play ball. They’ll make mistakes – not just Kentucky, any team – the opponent will make mistakes, and we’ll make mistakes, too, because they’re young kids. But you want to compete together and play hard and hopefully you limit those mistakes but also can do some nice things to help your team win a game.”

On what he’s learned about his team playing on the road

“Talked about one of our players doing a good job of having some savvy and kind of figuring things out, and I was joking about Blake [Burke], and John Wilkerson and I talked earlier about Blake’s evolution of a player and a hitter, and really a defender, too. There’s an evolution there. And there’s a little mini evolution you can look at on our team just on how they’ve behaved a little bit on the road and how they’ve acted. But also, look at the three trips that we have to fall back on. You play in a big league ballpark, where they won the World Series the year before, against three really strong, storied programs, and then we go on the road where a program has been a little breath of fresh air, and Coach Bohannon left all kinds of good players behind, and then of course, down in Auburn, a team that was starving for wins with plenty of talent. And that park can kind of play uniquely with the green monster and all of that. So, it’s nice we’ve had a bunch of different looks, and if you’ve been around the guys, you can tell a little bit of an understanding of what it takes to put together a successful road trip.”

On if he worries about his team making a top five matchup more than it is

“Not for me. We’re in the middle of the year so it certainly has a lot more value than being ranked 10th in the country or something like that before the season— isn’t worth a bucket of gummy bears. Well that is fairly valuable. Half way through the year. It’s more stuff for you to write about but the teams in our leagues have huge aspirations that come with all sorts of stuff at the end of the year but in the middle of the league you’re trying to win your division, you’re trying to win the league. You’re trying to finish in the top four where you get a bye in Hoover. You’re trying to finish in a couple other spots where this or that and I could go another category and I’m boring you, but at least now you kind of get the point, our league is very blessed for a lot of reasons and there’s opportunity around every corner to do all kinds of things and to narrow it down to this or this is doing it a disservice. So good that you can kind of write an extra theme but the only theme I’m really worried about since we’re going up there and we’re going to play and they’re good like the last time we went up there and they’re good like they were last year— I just hope we have better weather than we did last time. That was a mess.”

On what Cannon Peebles needs to do to get back on track

“I think relax. When he’s going too fast he is taking away what his strength is. What his strength is, his strength at the plate is he’s strong and compact. So there’s not a lot of excess movements in there. It’s a really sharp, compact, consistent swing when he uses it. But when he runs out of it then everything kind of gets discombobulated and that comes from that intensity he has, that drive to be good and his work ethic. So it’s hard to temper that. And then you get going and you look at, if you want to look at rankings or statistics and stuff like that— it’s good for you guys to look at and talk about and for fans to argue back-and-forth but it just muddies the water for what you have to worry about. When he’s worried about just using the swing that he’s been blessed with and also work at the craft like he did in BP today, it was really good and he had it in a couple at-bats during the game. So it’s that. If I could answer your dang question I would say, cut out some of the extra and just do you.”

On what a blowout win like this does for morale

“It does a lot. They’re in there and it’s a really nice spread that Beth, our nutritionist, put together, first of all. So I think they’re happy the food is really good, but it’s just a jovial deal. I mean, the whole place goes ballistic when Chuck does what he did and he really put a spin on, anyone who had a bad night tonight, you’re a little too wrapped up in your own feelings if you’re not leaving this park smiling and laughing because what Chuck did but also, like you said, comprehensively we were able to use a lot of guys and part of that is being able to play a whole nine innings but also some separation there and if anything we’re running out of opportunities to be overly generous like we were to try and get some guys some opportunities to get some guys some reps. We’re essentially in the last month of the season so it’s great and I’m as big into the teammate thing and we have to develop these kids so we need reps but this is the last month of the year and we’re marching towards May so it’s time to play ball and either win ugly or win with nine guys or 18 guys in the lineup. Whatever we have to do.”

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