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Everything Tennessee HC Tony Vitello Said Before Florida State Rematch

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello met with the media on Tuesday afternoon before the Vols resume College World Series play on Wednesday against Florida State.

Vitello discussed the status of Hunter Ensley entering the game, having beaten every team remaining in the field and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

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On if he expects Hunter Ensley to be available for Wednesday’s game

“A little bit of an easy answer would day to day. Definitely better today than he was on Monday. It was good for the guys to earn a day of rest or kind of a recovery day, which it has been ever since Hoover on Mondays. Back to work today and he was involved in everything. I don’t know if he could have gone full speed but he was cautioned to not go full speed through everything. He did everything that our guys just not as much as he might normally do.”

On if it helps playing teams that they’ve already beaten

“I think it gives you a little bit of an understanding of what you’re looking at, but each day is different. In particular here. Everybody that you’re gonna face is gonna bring a different starting pitcher to the table that day, different relievers available, and then a different mindset too. Again, every day has got its own flavor to it.”

On how beneficial it is to have two days off

“Monday’s the big one. Monday’s the big one. Here you kind of get into a routine where you, you have a day off typically in between, so you just kind of roll with it. But there’s been a lot of emotion lately. So the mental fatigue and physical fatigue certainly isn’t anything these guys can’t play with, especially in that stadium. But it helps kind of get you back to neutral and, you know, heal up any, you know, owies you got like you’re talking about. But yesterday was a big one. Today was kind of back into our routine and a little bit back to to normal business.”

On his pitching plan for Wednesday’s game; the importance of getting Zander Sechrist on the mound because he hasn’t pitched in over a week

“I think more importantly, last year he didn’t get an opportunity to throw here. So for my peace of mind I, I’m anxious to see him out there on the mound and he will start for us. And then, you know how he does, it’s like same thing, every day’s different. So when we get out there in the first inning, regardless of who it is, if it’s (Chris Stamos) or somebody else, we’re looking to hunt down three outs as quickly as possible and then we’ll move on to that next inning, whatever it might be.”

On the importance of the work put into the transfer portal the past two years and how it’s helped get this team to Omaha the past two years

“I think it’s been crucial because, you know, things kind of started in ‘21 and certainly carried over into ‘22, where guys played a little higher than expectations. So, good for them. But then on us in the office, it leaves you scrambling a little bit because you’re always trying to predict the future and kind of try and predict the draft, which is very difficult to do. When guys kind of play a little bit better than maybe expectations, it pushes him forward. And so, you got to make up ground and the portal helps you do that for sure.”

On if he envisioned getting this kind of play out of Kavares Tears in the field and at the plate this past month when he originally recruited him

“Not really. I mean that one was different. That was a long time ago. He was really young. He had an opposite field homer at a tournament on our field and we were able to visit with the family in some capacity and they’re just real lovable people. I was texting with a friend that doesn’t even know that much about our team and was pointing out how he looks like just on TV – he seems like a great kid and hit the nail on the head with that. It comes from that entire family, including his brother that’s always at our games. So, we just thought, here’s an instate kid, he’s got the pop that you’re looking for where he can take advantage of the way our field can play for a left-handed hitter. And then on top of it, again, just a really enjoyable kid. We’ve talked about our team chemistry and camaraderie. That’s very easy to do and throw it all under one blanket, but there’s a lot of components to that and he’s a huge one.”

On how the SEC is having a strong World Series and the strength of the conference overall

“I think the way the league prepares you is massive. So, I think everyone knows what type of athletes we have in the league and the media attention and the fan bases and the competitiveness of the games – to me speaks more to how it prepares you for whatever is ahead. Whether it be pro ball for these guys – I mean look at what’s going on there with guys leapfrogging in the minor leagues. And then for challenges here, like playing against the best teams in the ACC. As far as the ACC and the SEC combined, I think whether you like it or not, the rich get richer with some of these facilities and some of the recruiting rules that are going down. And so, you kind of see this grouping of elite athletes making coaches like us look smart and making the league, quite honestly, hell to compete in. But on the other side of that is some good things, like I said, immense preparation.”

On who could play centerfield if Hunter Ensley was unavailable

“KT (Kavares Tears), Reese (Chapman), (Colby) Backus has shown in Lexington, the ground he covered and running into the wall was shades of what Ensley’s capable of doing and Dylan’s (Dreiling) been out there. Dylan’s been really good for us in the left field, but he’s been out there. I trust Christian Moore at a very high level on the infield, so while he’d like to be out there to show his athleticism and it’s fun for him to run around, I think we trust him in the infield too much. So there’s a lot of guys, I mean you’ve seen us use all the outfielders we have used this year. The only one I take out of that group is Charlie Taylor. We’re just not gonna do that again.”

On Christian Moore’s versatility

‘Yeah, it’s huge and like we talked about ‘22. I mean if you got, right next door to the genius is sometimes insanity is kind of, I think, how the phrase goes. And some of those personalities in there are guys that really want to win and it comes out in a bunch of different ways. So again, regardless of what portrait you want to paint of any of our best players, the thing we have going on is the guys with the most talent also have a lot of work ethic, but definitely have the willingness or attitude that you want. Very receptive to coaching and willing to do whatever you ask him to do. So if he’s doing it, then everybody else should certainly be doing it as well and vice versa. So it’s kind of a nice go around in the locker room.”

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