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Everything Tennessee HC Tony Vitello Said After The Vols Walked Off Florida State

Photo By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball looked down-and-out before exploding for four runs in the ninth inning to defeat Florida State 12-11 in its College World Series opener on Friday night.

Pitching and defense let Tennessee down early but the Vols kept fighting and their offense kept the pressure on the Seminoles as they pulled off the upset.

Following the game, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed the ninth inning, Christian Moore’s huge night and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: Tennessee Baseball Uses Ninth Inning Rally To Knock Off Florida State

Opening statement

“I guess I’ve had time, but I haven’t taken time to think of what a good opening statement is. Obviously both teams get a lot of credit for putting on a show for the fans. My understanding is the game prior to ours was like that, too, and that’s what this place is about. And it’s why we get the crowds that we do here. It’s why this sport has grown into what it is.

And there’s a lot that could be dissected in the game. So we’ll leave it up to your questions. Just the one thing that I haven’t shared with the team, but I’ll share with these guys is we hit BP early, and we had a lot of downtime in kind of a holding room, a makeshift locker room.

And as we were getting ready to go out in the dugout, I was looking around the room and had a sense of comfort, just because looking at the group of guys that we were about to go do battle with, felt pretty dang good about it. I think we knew we were going to do battle with a very offensive team, as you saw.

But when you come here, it’s Abbott a few years ago. He might have been the quickest to the big leagues out of that group. I don’t know, it’s hard to argue who the best pitcher is. And the argument is a little easier with last year, it was Skenes.

And we finally figure out who we’re facing today and you look at the video and you look at the numbers, and Arnold can certainly make the case that he’s the best pitcher in this thing.

We had a coaches meeting. And to quote Ace Ventura, ‘why don’t you cry about it, saddle bags.’ You’ll have to beat somebody good. So our guys toughened up pretty good there. There was no game plan other than to compete and they did a good job there.”

On Cannon Peebles being consistently productive as a pinch hitter, his ninth inning at-bat

“I think it’s a little bit of a backwards answer, but I think it’s what he’s capable of with the nature of his position and also what we think his strengths are. It’s kind of a Catch-22.

It’s, we’ve got an opportunity to put you in the game, but hold on, we want to put you in the game when the fire’s burning hot. That can be really frustrating for a young guy, even more frustrating for a guy that kind of envisions a Pete Rose/George Brett style of the attacking the game, which he truly does.

But for this team in particular it’s what his role is and what it needs to be. There’s a good chance he’ll catch before our time is done here. There’s a great chance he has to be patient for the next situation.

But I think what you’re seeing is what he’s capable of. It kind of embodies what these guys are saying. I Know they’re trying to answer correctly — they’re really good dudes on the field. They’re very competitive on the field.

But what they’re talking about, brotherhood and throwing those words, Peebles has accepted his role. And I could go on and on down the list.

Snead gets the win tonight. There’s times we’ve taken the ball from him. And there’s times where he’s sore but he wants to take the ball. And it’s been a good group as far as all that stuff goes.”

On what his feeling were when the lineup flipped to Christian Moore in the ninth inning

“I thought C-Mo was telling me to calm down. K.T. told me to calm down about four times. Had a bunch of dirt in my hands at one point. So I think I was the least composed out of that group.

But I assure you that I was confident. We just talked about getting on base.

It’s nice to turn over the lineup. And Christian Moore was a man on a mission tonight. So you would like to see him get up to the plate.

But honestly in that situation, what the conversation is, let’s just make sure we get one baserunner. And then I feel like our lineup is capable. Tonight I don’t think Cal had much to show for it. And in one of those Regional or Super Regional games, Cal almost took over. And we could go each guy through the lineup and talk similar fashion.”

On why he came out of the dugout in the top of the ninth inning

“Just the balk call. Again, a lack of composure, but it kind of had some history to it. That was something we saw earlier in the game. And to be honest with you, if you go back, watch the video, we’ve got other guys in my opinion that were guilty of it on our side, too.

So my feeling was it was arbitrarily called out of the blue. I haven’t talked to those guys. Typically the umpires will tell an infielder, tell that guy — maybe that was the case, maybe they warned him, and he still didn’t come completely set. But we felt we were in a situation, especially with a runner at third, where that didn’t take place, and I guess just kind of a competitive situation.

I mean, again, coming into the game with Arnold, you watched the video, you want 90 feet any way you can possibly get it. So just kind of a buildup to that situation. But it’s what he did and there was kind of calls that went back and forth for both teams.”

On the bullpen’s night

“That bothers me that he came out of the game that quick. It would have been interesting to see how things would have taken place — the first play was tricky. It’s a different field, gorgeous field, but it’s a different field. And I don’t know that I managed our practice time as well as I needed to yesterday.

I mean, you don’t get much time to get used to it and they cut it. It’s not like our guys weren’t focused. I promise you, we coached, but it looked like we were disoriented in some of those situations.

Stom was throwing the ball very well. As soon as I took one step out of the dugout, I’d have to look at the video, I forget what he said. Some sort of phrase. I don’t think there was a cuss word in there, but he was as frustrated as I was that we had to take him out.

But then each guy after that kind of did what they had to do. Those are more works than you’re typically going to see out of a Coach Anderson pitching staff. They’re very dangerous in the lineup. There was some plays we could have made behind him. All in all, hot mess. It’s not going to be pretty. Doesn’t have to be pretty this time of year, just gotta keep fighting.”

On if he felt like they didn’t play like themselves in early game mistakes, how they persevered 

“No, I felt like pregame, we try not to rush anything. Probably the better way to do it — I’ve been guilty of doing that in the past. Like I said, we had some bonus time.

And then you could sense the air about him was pretty good. They were eager to go. Stom was throwing the ball well. Our first inning against Arnold, I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t envision it that way.

One thing I did envision, to be a thousand percent honest with you, too, we had a fair amount of success this year. We haven’t had a walk-off win.

For whatever reason, that was in my head. Maybe because of the game beforehand. Those things are interesting. Because once you do something, it kind of seems to occur again or come in bunches.

But I think a couple of terrific plays and our guys weren’t handling some of the circumstances that were present on the field. And what I said in the mid-game interview was, I don’t mean because we’re in Omaha or because the stakes are high, but the actual circumstances that were present on the field needed to be handled better by our guys.

Sometimes, when you compete, you can cover up mistakes, and I think that’s what the definition of that is tonight. It was certainly a great example.”

On how Christian Moore has developed over the course of his career

“Wants to win as bad as anyone I’ve ever been around. And the umpires, we talked about that, there, Grady, the home plate umpire was really good to me because he let me come out, speak my mind, kind of talk about some things. He let me know what was going on on the field.

And the one guy we were talking about back and forth was C-Mo. And I was pleading a particular case, that guy wants to win as anybody on the field. I don’t know how you define that, but that’s what makes his motor go. He’s not going so good when he’s not in that mode and he’s worrying about other things.

To answer your question, his development has come he’s matured a lot on and off the field where he gets into that spot more often and doesn’t let a bump in the road set him off or a poor game set him off in another direction. And it’s been nice to see that development.

Blake Burke and he are two guys — Chris Burke was talking about it before the game, fun story: Two different sides of the country, two totally different ways to do it, but they’ve both matured in so many different ways. And they’re pros, they’re ready to be pros. I just hope it’s not for a while.”

On when he knew Christian Moore would be a special player

“Our staff did a good job recruiting him. I played a very small part. As a matter of fact, I went to one game in the middle of nowhere in Georgia, and he didn’t say hi to me. I don’t know if he knew it was me or not. I tease him about that all the time.

He was pitching in that game. He was a pitcher, an athletic infielder that we recruited, and I mentioned earlier to ESPN folks, we didn’t think he was coming to school.

He had to turn down really good money in order to come. I was going to save this for later, but I think he’s kind of battling a little bit of the reputation that people throw around right now from others that we dealt with three years ago. We had some concepts there that not a guy that says no to good money and wants to play team ball and things like that.

We knew right away, once he was on campus, we were wrong. But we also had to do some things to, again, like any freshman needed to mature, and he’s gotten to that point right now. So it’s fun to watch.”

On if he’s ever seem a ball hit as far as the Christian Moore’s home run was

“To be honest with you, a couple similar at our park. But I would say the more unique thing was the reaction from some of the guys in the dugout.

When you impress your teammates that way where it’s like a Shawn Kemp, for people old enough in the room, like a Shawn Kemp dunk and you’ve got everybody on the bench going crazy, that was kind of their reaction in the dugout.”

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