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Everything Tennessee HC Tony Vitello Said After Series Clinching Victory At Kentucky

Photo By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball earned a thrilling 13-11 victory over No. 3 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon to take the weekend series in Lexington.

Following the high scoring Sunday win, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed what he learned about his team, Christian Moore’s massive weekend and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: Tennessee Wins Series Finale Thriller At Kentucky

On the message to the team following a crazy game

“I got a lot of thoughts but they will maybe have to be shared when it’s maybe not such an emotional moment for the guys. Let them enjoy it a little bit but what those thoughts will be is once the thrill of the victory dies down, the biggest thing about today’s victory is it was done with so many different guys. It kind of goes to show you— I did a bunch of quirky things, moves and I don’t know that a lot of them were smart but good players will make you look smart and we were able to utilize a lot of guys that are good players, ending with a guy (Marcus Phillips) that showed you he had pretty good stuff. On the whole, the weekend was so valuable for both teams. I think as a few weeks die down, yeah, we were able to get the benefit of one more win but I think both teams probably got a heck of a lot better by playing in this environment which was essentially a super regional environment. Not the prettiest three games but no question it was competitive.”

On coaching a team with an abundance of that is never out of a game

“It gives you a sense of comfort that a lot of different things can occur. Last week we talked about (Ethan) Payne getting a bunt down and today we’re wondering what do we have down in the bullpen and to be honest with you, we had (Dylan) Loy ready for (Emilien) Pitre who is one of the better left-handed hitters in the conference. I think Loy has been chomping at the bit and I have confidence in him to come in there if it’s for some reason second and third and the winning run is at third or the tying run is at third, winning at second— whatever the situation might be. There’s even more guys than we used today but the guys we used today showed they’re fully capable of having success in any situation.”

On Christian Moore’s three home run performance

“That was pretty ridiculous, to be honest with you. There’s no real words to put into it. I think both teams probably played to a stalemate for most of the weekend if you were going to dissect it. I feel like we made a lot of mistakes. I assumed we made more than they did. But a separator was he. Really he and Burke were the separators overall because of their leadership, their presence and the defense Blake plays at first base and obviously he did some things at the plate.”

On Christian Moore stepping up in big time moments

“Freshman year, there was an SEC series on the road where he just kind of seemed to be a man possessed. As did a lot of guys in that dugout, but he stuck out and got a chance to play in that game and brought us back from a deficit and won. So, kind of had flashbacks to that. But he’s had a lot of moments and he’s bound to have more – especially at the big league level. We are fortunate to have him in the dugout but I kind of fall back on that whole deal where, during the tenures [Burke and CMO], you guys want to talk about different accomplishments they’ve had and accolades. In about 17 years, no one is going to remember each of those because they might get broken, whatever the record or accolades are. There is no way that anyone who wears orange is going to forget what those guys have done in terms of competing, thrilling the fans and also just helping out programs win games. Winning percentage.”  

On pinch hitting Cannon Peebles in that big spot

“His presence. Post the lineup and he’s frustrated he’s not in. Quick turn the page and make sure he’s got the best preparation or gets his work in in BP. You see those swings starting to calm down a little bit and get smoother. When the game starts, he’s consistently involved in the game. Cheering on the team is one thing, but we are not the cheerleading team – with all due respect to them. We are in the middle of a game and he’s watching and observing what he can do if he is in the game or what we need to do to win the game. All those things add up. He was the right guy for the spot. To be honest with you, you could go to two or three other guys. I’m glad he got in there and got that feel good. Als, showed that he can catch in any situation and with the game on the line – our season on the line – and we can trust him to have success.”

On Kirby Connell being able to eat some innings

“It was huge because going into today, we felt like (Nate) Snead and (Andrew) Behnke were going to have to throw well for us to have a chance against that lineup. And both of them will tell you — Behnke just flat out had his worst game of the year, which to me is behind us. So good it’s behind us. And then Snead, we’ve kind of gotten him hot a bunch of different times the last two weeks and for whatever reason, they were just on him. So again, good to have it behind us. Look forward to watching him pitch again. But neither one of them — Kirby basically picked them up. And they’ve picked him before, too. So for him to get us where we got and to kind of be on fumes there at the end, I think was huge.”

On Marcus Phillips getting the last out in his first SEC appearance

“That’s big for Marcus. We got better as a team in a lot of different ways this weekend, but obviously one with an exclamation point is Marcus just knowing who he is — it reminds me of Garrett Crochet a little bit and I’m not comparing the two at all, but the last guy in our facility to know that Garrett Crochet was good, was Garrett Crochet. It’s usually the opposite with the kids. And Marcus, I think knows he’s good and thinks he’s good, but he’s going to be the last one to realize how good he truly is and can be.”

On Colby Backus getting his first action in centerfield to close out the game

“He’s been patient. He deserves more. But why he got in that situation is because of his play in the midweek game where he had that crazy play off the wall. I think it ended up being a double play. It was a wild play. But it was a hustle play that he made and we get a guy thrown out at third base because Charlie Taylor is in right field, that’s right. He’s put in his work every day and he is lightyears ahead of where he was when he first got into the program. He’s another guy I think can play for a long time, especially with how physical he is. But for now, you can tell he’s ready for his opportunities and when he gets them, trust me, he deserves them.”

On what he learned about his team this weekend

“A ton. And really about both teams and the state of our league. It’s scary to think there’s better teams than the one we just played, but our guys get tough when the tough gets going. We always say cliches are a cliche for a reason. I wondered if they had it in them at all, and then I told you guys as the spring goes, ‘oh okay, we have it.’ But now they’re starting to stamp new spots along the way. It’s been impressive and I don’t want them to hear that. If anything, they should be eager for the next opportunity to see how determined they can get it when it’s not exactly the easiest set of circumstances.” 

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