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Everything Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Clinched Series At Vanderbilt

Photo By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball clinched its eighth straight series win on Saturday afternoon as the Vols survive a thriller to defeat Vanderbilt 7-6 in game two of the weekend set.

The victory marked Tennessee’s ninth straight over the Commodores which is the Vols’ third longest winning streak in the history of the rivalry.

Following the game, Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello discussed the high leverage relief outings from Aaron Combs and Nate Snead, Christian Moore’s big day and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: Tennessee Baseball Wins Thriller Against Vanderbilt On Saturday Afternoon

On how impressive Christian Moore’s home run was

“Yeah very. He usually has a great approach to begin with, but with two strikes, there were several at-bats – some went his way, some didn’t – where he was just battling. And even the first at-bat of the game, he doesn’t get a hit out of it, but [he] started the process of wearing down their starter, [Carter] Holton, a little bit, which it took us a long time to get to him last year. Same thing this year. I don’t know about freshman year, but the guy has been impressive for three years. So we needed everything we could get. But yeah, when we got to the bullpen, [it was] pretty good for him to be able to handle that. Maybe him facing [Ben] Joyce – both Joyce brothers – had him prepared.”

On the all-around player Christian Moore has been for the team

“Yeah I would say more of a leader. I think he’s transformed into the extra guy… I almost said a funny phrase, but him and [Blake] Burke were kind of the icing on the cake for that team their freshman year. I don’t think they were really relied on, and yet they were huge for us. Kind of like the icing on the cake type deal. And last year, they were thrust into a role where we needed them to do everything, and that’s a lot at once for those two guys. And I think having to go through that and keep pushing forward and learning and making adjustments has made them better in all areas of the game – which is what you’re talking about – and it’s been biggest for us in the leadership category.”

On Christian Moore bouncing back from his bases-loaded strikeout to hit the home run

“Yeah it’s huge, but I think it helps the environment in the dugout. You have a lot of people that give him room to breathe. He was just frustrated that he got beat. He got beat by a good pitch, and he’s not used to that. So he comes in and everybody kind of let the fire burn bright for a second and then when you see smoke a little bit, people were on him about being ready for the next at-bat or helping us out on defense and just whatever the next thing is you have to get done for the betterment of the team. And going back to freshman year, I don’t know that he was that great at that. Whether it be a call he didn’t like from the umpire, or an at-bat that didn’t go well or the day before didn’t go well, and it’s hard to do that when you’re competing and really wanting to win. It’s baseball intensity, which is a tough version of that. He’s learned it, and he’s still in the process of perfecting it.”

On bullpen arms having success in high leverage moments

“It was just nice to get the win and everyone threw well but as far as what my job is— maybe I jinxed myself. We were kind of joking during the in game interview with Burky (Chris Burke) we’ll see if we can affect the game because when the game starts it’s really on the players. Just a bad job, honestly, with the pitchers— how we were doing stuff, what our plan was and yet we have good pitchers that pick you up and guys that make plays defensively so would have liked to manage all that a lot better but you have three really good pieces that come out of the bullpen and Combsy can go out there and get one big out like he did last year or this year he can work his way up to 80 pitches and then Snead has kind of been a swiss army knife for us in so many different ways and then everyone kind of knows what Kirby is for us. I think the best thing out of the deal was we were able to win the game and Snead will be available tomorrow and Kirby also for a guy that can throw a ton has barely thrown much this weekend at all.”

On if the close games are stressful in the moment but more rewarding afterwards

“During the game, it’s ironic, maybe I jinxed it or whatever. Baseball guys want to say some things out loud and not others. But we talked about yesterday there’s just going to be a lot of things that go up-and-down other the course of a game. Even if a guy were to throw a no hitter or you win 10-0 or lose, whatever. There’s always going to be ups and downs with so many pitches being involved on offense and defense and where I think this team has a strength and I was kind of eluding this to you guys— the older guys like watching from the big league clubhouse or are still following the program (they) see that in these players. You might see some ups and downs out of them or overreaction for a second but they’re pretty good at wading through those waters a little bit and that’s very very important for this game when you’re judged on how a weekend goes and not just one game.”

On Aaron Combs and Nate Snead calming the waters

“Good stuff helps. It’s very different how they go about it and Combs has so many different things he can look back on— his experience no matter what the situation is. A leverage game to get yourself to the next round last year in the postseason stands out. But he’s prepared and he’s confident and he’s got good presence so I think that all goes into it. And Snead has worked his butt off to become this guy that’s got great stuff. So now it’s how are you going to use it. Well the guys in the other dugout over there will get to you if you don’t know how to operate the right way. I’ve had fun just watching him evolve on how he prepares, how he handles himself on the dugout and what his presence is like out there on the mound because all that goes into it at this level. You might be able to smoke a guy with good velo in high school or get away with mistakes of guys chasing but he’s really evolved at the presence category.”

On how Cannon Peebles is building off the home run from Friday

“Yeah. He looks comfortable in the box. We don’t need him to conquer the world because maybe he hits a lull in there during the season and now he’s back involved heavily. We just need one good at-bat out of him. I don’t know if it is the right time to say it or fair to say it, but I answered John Wilkerson’s question this way earlier – the DH spot is one where we can adjust pretty quickly. There’s a lot of guys that were ready to go. I find myself, as well as the other coaches, telling a variety of guys to be ready in case we want to send them up there. Not just one guy. We will go case-by case, situation-by-situation. Peebs is so good back there defensively, you have to kind of judge how you want to handle him and Chuck [Charlie Taylor] behind Cal [Stark] as well. We will see how it goes going forward. He looks much more like himself, which is refreshing.” 

On being in position to win SEC titles and more at this stage of the season

“For us, including the pitchers who will throw tomorrow, we’re looking to go 1-0 tomorrow and I’m onboard with that plan as well. Big scheme of things stuff, we – in particular this group – just kind of let those things take care of themselves. For me, and I’m answering this as sincerely as possible, you want this time of the year to be ‘I know where this guy goes’ or ‘I know what we’re going to do in this situation.’ ‘Hey, do you guys want to practice today or what do you guys want to work on today?’ ‘How do you want to handle this situation?’ We are kind of getting to that point where – I mean, Frank [Anderson] is going to call pitches and Josh [Elander] is going to run the offense – but the keys to the car are ready to be handed off to these guys. I don’t know what car it is. Maybe it’s a nice one. CMo [Christian Moore] is right there and I don’t know if I’d give him the keys or not. Combsy [Aaron Combs] can have the keys and so can the other guys.”

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