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Tennessee’s Tony Vitello Sick And Tired Of College Baseball Run-Rules

Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

The frustration was evident on Tony Vitello’s face when a reporter asked him about Tennessee’s offensive explosion in the Vols’ 10-0 run-rule victory over Belmont on Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

“The first nine runs were great,” Vitello said. “The last one, I already used my cuss word in my in-game interview on Sunday. So, I won’t do one now. I’d like to.”

All the assembled media knew exactly what Vitello was talking about. That 10th run, courtesy of a Reese Chapman solo home run in the sixth inning, meant that the run-rule was in play.

Vitello has shared his disagreements with the run-rule throughout the two years it’s been in existence, so Tuesday night was nothing new. But it was a more straightforward and public comment on the pace of play rule that he doesn’t agree with.

“I’ve had it with that – I’ve recommended people to be on the board or when we have our SEC meetings, to be the ones that speak first and all that,” Vitello said. “I am way down the totem pole and I ain’t trying to be humble, but I’m kind of over this whole deal here [run-rule]. Ten ain’t a lot and I don’t know why that’s the number. Reese Chapman hits a home run and everyone is bummed out. That’s not good and doesn’t make sense.”

Tennessee has had 15 games end with a run-rule this season. The Vols won 14 of the games and lost other. Fourteen of the run-rules came in just seven innings while one was an eight inning run-rule.

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With 15 run-rule games this season, Tennessee has lost 29 innings of baseball. Just over three full games. That is the crux of Vitello’s vitriol with the rule.

Young players lose game reps with those lost innings, particularly young pitchers who don’t get action if it’s not for midweek games. Freshmen pitchers Austin Hunley, Brady Robertson and Derek Schaefer have been most impacted by Tennessee’s bevy of run-rules.

All SEC games have a 10 runs after seven inning run-rule intact which has guaranteed six run-rules and over a full game of lost innings. But the nine other run-rules came in non conference games where the run-rule isn’t set in stone.

It’s up to the visiting team to decide whether they want a run-rule. Most teams do but a few opt to play the full nine innings no matter what. Tennessee would have had run-rule victories over both Illinois and Bellarmine this year if the run-rule was in effect for those games.

The run-rule wasn’t intact in college baseball until the 2023 season. Tennessee’s 2022 baseball team turned in wins by 29 and 27 runs in non conference games and by 25 and 13 runs in SEC play.

Those types of scores are why the run-rule was added to help pace of play and to stop the bleeding for outmatched teams. It is nice for fans and media members alike but it works against the development of young players.

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One Response

  1. The opposite side of the same coin is that opposing pitchers get overworked on the losing end where games are won by 25 points. So, where is the line drawn? Where does the health of players get the line drawn? If 10 runs is too few, should it be moved up to 12, or 15? Reality is this has been a dilemma for all players starting in little league. Travel baseball has mercy rules, too. 10 at the 7th inning is better than 8 at the 4th inning. Sure, let’s debate it. I’m open for that. Let’s also discuss why the younger players aren’t brought in sooner when the winning team has a xommanding lead, or aren’t even starting in some games when the manager believes their offense is too good to be stopped. Is this really a conversation Vitello wants to have, or does he just want an outlet to vent. If it’s a conversation he wants, he should be wary about looking bad.

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