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Everything Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Defeated Indiana

Tony Vitello
Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello. Photo By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics.

Tennessee baseball advanced to the Knoxville Regional championship by knocking off Indiana 12-6 on Saturday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The Vols’ offense exploded early and kept on adding to keep the Hoosiers at a distance throughout the evening.

Following the game, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed Andrew Behnke’s relief outing, the offense’s explosion and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: How Tennessee Baseball Got It Done Against Indiana In NCAA Tournament

Opening Statement

“I thought the guys did a good job grinding out at-bats and [Drew] Beam was outstanding, as good as he is throwing the ball at the start of the game. Some long innings on offense or whatever it might have been, their offense being very good, just kind of hit a couple speed bumps. We went with our gut and the biggest part of the game and the biggest factor in the game was how well [Andrew] Behnke threw the ball, which was outstanding for us. And that’s the nature of a tournament. It’s not going to be conventional, it’s not going to be pretty, but what you’re looking to do is, is put yourself in a better position for whatever the next day is. And obviously the day for us tomorrow is Sunday. We’ll see what happens between two great programs tomorrow before us.”

On if this Andrew Behnke’s best performance

“The first appearance in Hoover. Well, the second appearance in Hoover, if I got it right, was as good as I’ve seen him throw the ball. I mean there was no messing around. It was right to it. It was coming out of his hand as good as possible and then the next time out wasn’t as good. But I’d rather coach a guy that empties the clip or however you want to phrase it and then is running on fumes later as opposed to guy that doesn’t quite know how to pace himself or whatever it might be. But I think that’s the most amount of pitches he’s thrown for us while being here. So, you could call it his best overall or complete outing.”

On Tennessee working a lot of walks

“Yeah, we knew we were facing a guy with phenomenal stuff, and it was just that. If anything, based off his last outing, I think in the Big 10 tournament, he was up three miles an hour or so on the velocity. Christian Moore, we are always confident when he’s starting the game for us, but those are three as good a pitches as he could throw to start the game. So, you knew you had your work cut out for you, but it kind of all started with Billy [Amick]. It’s really fun when he hits it over the fence, or we’ve talked about his hard contact outs all the time, but he also had one of the bigger moments in the game just simply by making the guy work. We don’t score in that first inning, but it kind of put a halt to the momentum and it also kind of showed our guys what the way was. Again, it may not be conventional, it may not be pretty – it’s cool Dean [Curley] runs into one, but I think it was all set up by just grinding out some at bats.”

On if the early game atmosphere was the hornet’s nest he was envisioning

“I think so, but I think we’ve had it. It’s weird around here. Good baseball guy here is watching the regional and the stadium has changed every time he’s been here and it’s like, well it changes every time for us too. So it’s always kind of been what you’re describing, but it just takes on different feels to it with a second deck of the porch, third deck of the porch and then it felt like I was a football coach for a minute with the offense couldn’t hear— the quarterback couldn’t hear the play coming in there. This technology we use is whatever, but it was pretty cool to see the crowd interfering with the PitchCom and then getting excited and then certainly kind of putting pressure on the pitcher. Again, Foley’s got literally big league stuff and our guys made it tough on him, but I think they got kind of a John Stockton assist there from the crowd.”

On this offense consistently hitting home run

“I think, to Dean’s point, I think he said one-of-one or whatever he pulled out of his pocket there kind of describes the feeling. It’s got to be a pretty good feeling. I didn’t feel very often and it’s kind of a moment to celebrate, but I think that’s a byproduct of a lot of work that goes on in the cage with Coach Elander and then our guys are big and strong. I mean Dean is not built like your average freshman and then normally along the infield there, there’s been some phenomenal infield that— I’m picturing a few of them where, okay, maybe the first baseman’s big or the third baseman is a Scott Rolen type guy who helps Indiana’s program out, but that’s four large human beings there. And then we could go to all the other spots in the lineup where guys have the capability of doing that. I think they take more pride in communicating with one another and trust in one another in certain situations. And I’ve seen them celebrate other times where maybe it’s not the coolest thing or the thing that pops up on Twitter, but they realize there’s value to it in a game. And that to me has been one of the pleasures about being around the group this year is they kind of coach each other the way the coach would want to coach them and it’s those things that I had there filled into the answer.”

On if he would have liked to save Aaron Combs

“No, I mean I remember when I was little, I don’t know who makes gummy lifesavers, I guess Nabisco, my cousin worked for that company and I got sick. I had an endless supply of them from him. So there’s no lifesavers here, there’s nothing to save and today was a big day for anyone that was in the winner’s bracket because you want to get into a position where you can watch the game tomorrow. I don’t know that we’ll watch it, we’ll wait and see. We already know that the teams are going to be good, but no, we knew we were going to use him at some point. 

He was down there in the fourth inning, so it was a matter of kind of measuring it the way we wanted to and Behnke kind of flipped the script on us and then Marcus threw the ball really, really well. We’ll watch the video. He threw the ball well and that thing was humming. And then I think DLoy was a little too fired up, but the fact we got him in there again, you know, both those guys now, they both have two postseason experiences. They’re fresh. They’re available tomorrow, whatever’s to come. And then Aaron (Combs) always wants the ball. The fact he was out there to close it, I think made it a cleaner ending than it could have been and I think he’ll still be available for, again, whatever lies ahead.”

On what the last two games say about this team

“I think their focus has been good and their mind is in the right place. I mean, you can get caught up and it’s gotta be crazy to be a basketball coach because there’s so much action in the month of March, and you’d like your guys to just focus on your game and not only do that, but focus on it the right way. And our guys celebrated what they were able to do in Hoover, but I think they drew a line in the sand somewhere – that’s the vibe I got – and kind of moved on to the next thing. And then again, I kind of whined in here last night about a bunch of narratives, or crazy texts I get, or people put this out there and that out there, and maybe I need to realize the only guys that really matter are our players, and I think their focus has been really good.

“These games are all gonna be chaotic, but we have played two really good programs. Northern Kentucky showed that today. A heck of a season that those guys put together and [tonight’s] game was ultra competitive as well. But I think it says a little bit more about where our guy’s focus is. Like I said, one of those narratives to complain about is, (to Dean Curley) how old are you?”

Curley: “20.”

“Yeah, I mean, if you’re tired and you’re 20 – I don’t remember being tired [when I was 20] – I remember being scolded for not being tired by several different people, but your mental energy’s different than your physical energy and sometimes guys can get caught celebrating or not ready or looking at other stuff. So I think our guys’ focus has been really good throughout the week and the last two days, but Sunday’s a pretty big day, so we’ll see if their focus is where it needs to be.”

On Cal Stark flipping the lineup over three different times

“That’s pretty good. I didn’t realize that. That’s a good baseball observation. And our fans were incredible tonight, but when it got a little sparse, you can hear individual comments like saying, ‘Let’s play basketball,’ which doesn’t make any sense. No offense, [I] like the enthusiasm. Maybe a lot of beverages were had. But, that’s good. That’s what you want. I think to go back to our point, and I’m not trying to coach anybody up, I’m just saying it because our dugouts are on the field, you can hear and see everything, and it’s been cool each year to see our fans progress from a smaller number to a bigger number but also different ways to cheer for your team when to maybe even cheer for the other team but more than likely is to make things a little more difficult for the opponent. It’s a great observation because I didn’t see that. Our lineup is a big headache at the top, but at the same time we’ve done a lot of damage at the bottom. So Cal [Stark] was able to do that by driving a ball out of the park, but more importantly to just put together some tough at bats. We’ve kind of joked about getting out of the way of some recently, but he wasn’t getting out of the way on that one. It turned out [to be] very big for us.”

On what his favorite part about the offense is

“I said Indiana’s offense is really complete and it’s tough from top to bottom, which they showed, but I think our guys have that quality, too. I think it’s more just the balance and that factor that’s built in there that any given day, it could be – we got a pitcher in here (Andrew Behnke) – but it could be any hitter, and it was Billy [Amick] yesterday. It’s Dean [Curley] today. Someone should be fortunate enough to be that guy tomorrow, and I’m all for it being Dean again, but the odds are someone else will have a big day, too. So I think anyone in that lineup is capable of getting to you and you never know who it’s gonna be that day, but I think everyone is involved in contributing, which makes it fun.”

On if he felt like the long offensive innings threw Drew Beam out of rhythm

“Yeah, that’s just a conspiracy theory for me. I mean, we’ll watch the video and kind of see where misses was and how he was, if he was in the zone or when he wasn’t. But it just didn’t look like the same guy consistently over the — during the second part of the outing and just getting after Cal’s mit. And there were moments in there for sure including the last hitter, which made it really difficult to take him out. I think he was at 90 (pitches) and I’m kind of talking to Drew through the microphone, although he doesn’t need to watch this. I think he was at 90, you know, arguably their best hitter (Devin Taylor) is up. He had hit a homer and I’m not so sure with that rhythm he was in, he’s not the best guy to get him. But if he would’ve got him, I think Andrew (Behnke) would’ve probably started the next inning just based off pitch count.

“And also sometimes, like Chad Dallas had this outing that was really weird, too. I think he only threw four innings, but we kind of counted it as like seven because of how long the game was. He kept getting up playing catch. I think he even went to the bullpen one time. So we probably would’ve, if he would’ve been able to retire the next hitter, he still would’ve been angry with me. But I think he would’ve come out of the game because of the nature of how those innings evolved. And again, it’s a tournament. So expect anything, prepare for anything and be willing to do anything.”

On something he would like to ‘button up’ heading into the regional final

“I don’t necessarily think buttoned up. I think just welcome the fact that you’re gonna be challenged consistently. You know, speaking to the fans one more time. You know, people started to depart a little bit and for a few different reasons, it turned into a four-hour game. So I get that, but by no means is it a formality to finish a game. And I think Dylan’s (Dreiling) homer last night was enormous against a really scrappy team (Northern Kentucky) and a complete lineup that was really dangerous at the top. And then, you know, today, you gotta know that you signed up for a full day’s work. You take a lead that early, it’s kinda like in basketball, you see these teams are gonna make the run at you. In Hoover, we knew dang well they (LSU) were gonna make their run at us and fortunately (Aaron Combs) was good enough to finish that thing off and the margins won. Tonight it’s six. It’s kind of all the same if you’re in our spot. Again for fans, they may see it differently, but at this point they’re all closely contested games and you’d like to have one more than the other team at the end.”

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