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Everything Tennessee HC Tony Vitello Said After Vols Dropped Game One Against Texas A&M

Tennessee Baseball
Tennessee Baseball HC Tony Vitello against Vanderbilt in Knoxville. Photo by Rocky Top Insider/Ric Butler.

Tennessee baseball dropped game one of College World Series finals 9-5 against Texas A&M on Saturday night at Charles Schwab Field.

Following the game, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed what went wrong for the pitching staff, his confidence in Drew Beam responding and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said. 

More From RTI: What Went Wrong For Tennessee Baseball In Its Opening Loss Against Texas A&M

Opening statement

“Pretty straightforward. The team that played better won the game. They appeared more prepared. But I think that was a result of Gavin puts a good swing on a pitch. It’s kind of the third time in a row we beat our guy that particular way.

And then couple things don’t go our way. And it kind of got emotional there, a little more emotional than it usually does, but for a proper reason, with the situation. But I think the basics come.

They played better. And even though we didn’t bring our best, we’re within striking distance against their guy there at the end of the game.”

On what gives him confidence that they’ll bounce back tomorrow

“I think we can definitely play better. I mean, that’s one thing. And this isn’t a traditional series against an SEC opponent or just a good opponent, whether it be Illinois or everybody else that’s on our schedule.

But you go through the season and you welcome competition for a reason; it will make you better in a few different ways. You find out different ways to respond, and you can either get frustrated that tonight went the way that it did, or you can get more determined. And we’ve got guys that have done that a lot in the past where determination kicks up, play kicks up.”

On if he can pinpoint what’s going wrong defensively

“I think we can definitely play better. I mean, that’s one thing. And this isn’t a traditional series against an SEC opponent or just a good opponent, whether it be Illinois or everybody else that’s on our schedule.

But you go through the season and you welcome competition for a reason; it will make you better in a few different ways. You find out different ways to respond, and you can either get frustrated that tonight went the way that it did, or you can get more determined. And we’ve got guys that have done that a lot in the past where determination kicks up, play kicks up.”

On his confidence in Drew Beam with their back against the wall

“We like anytime he gets to throw for us. It’s kind of been that way since his freshman year, and the fall was slower based off how he entered the program. He was recovering. And then hasn’t looked back.

There’s been some ups and downs but it’s not like it’s been a roller coaster. He’s been a blessing to have in the program as far as the approach he brings to the dugout or just the facility, in general, in how he works.

And usually when your leaders embody what you’ve got going on and it’s a positive — I didn’t say that appropriately — but when your leaders have the right characteristics, it usually bleeds into the rest of the team in the dugout.

And, again, he’s an unselfish kid that likes to compete. That, again, has bled throughout the rest of the dugout, especially with the younger guys that have learned from him like D-Loy.”

On making Texas A&M tax its bullpen, if it felt like game two against Evansville

“A little bit. I said earlier, as crazy as it is that Evansville game was a little bit good for us. This time of year you’re only going to be able to go on a streak for so long. And I think you need to be reminded every now and again of certain things you need to do.

That Evansville game did that to us, and this was similar. We were within striking distance. We were able to see what they had available in the bullpen.

But A&M has some guys that are unused. I’m not sure they’ve even announced a starter tomorrow. They’re not going to run out of guys, but it certainly helps to have an idea who you’ll face and to stay in the fight. Ideally this is a three-round bout that you’re in. And every inning has some weight to it when you’re finished.”

On what was making Ryan Prager effective

“The change-of-speed factor is bread and butter. It’s not like he did not do that in Hoover. I think the difference was they played a little better defense behind him.

And our guys had to play from behind. And not only was it from behind on the scoreboard, but, again, I think a little bit of a downer early in the game with where we were at.

Having said that, we were in pole position several times to knock him out earlier than we did. And it kind of seemed to be a theme on offense — one more quality at-bat or guy on base could have altered some things or changed things the way they use their bullpen.

But nonetheless, I mean, the guys did do okay at the plate. You can’t separate the at-bats from the rest of the game. You’ve got base running. You’ve got defense. You’ve got pitching. And, of course, you’ve got the hitting as well.”

On how to reel back in the emotions

“I think you just play baseball and make sure that you don’t put so much weight on how big the crowd is or the extra cameras and things like that that you lose sight of just some fundamentals or important things that go on in the game, like communicating or focusing on whatever the certain task is.

It’s true. And whatever you’re going to be talking about, simple is better. So I would kind of summarize it by saying that.”

On if Hunter Ensley could start in centerfield tomorrow, how close he was tonight

“There’s a chance tomorrow. And it was close. And you kind of weigh your options. Again, at the very least, I mean, where I grew up in Missouri I had to watch my dad coach — single elimination is not appropriate for baseball based off sample size and things like that.

So given the fact that we potentially have two or three games to play, I wasn’t too comfortable with the idea of him pushing it after a couple of days of nonaction. And, of course, he’s got the fighter mentality.

So it was a difficult decision, and I would say go back to the hotel. It’s probably one of about seven, eight — 17, 18, that I could have made better. But it’s what we did and it didn’t work out. We didn’t play well enough tonight. But he certainly had some great at-bats. We’ll see what he’s got going tomorrow.”

On Marcus Phillips’ outing

“He’s matured a lot. Obviously a fantastic junior college and setup over there. And we thought he would get more development as a freshman, but he just didn’t quite stay healthy. And there’s so much talent over there.

He came in being a kid from the north, very little experience, a lot of two-way time. He swung the bat for us some.

He’s come a long way on the mound. The way we judge him is basically how the ball is coming out. He’s either throwing it with conviction or he’s not. And he was tonight.

Again, I wouldn’t give credit in any inning for management stuff on my end, but he did his first job, and then we kind of went quick to the bullpen on him. It would have been interesting to see how well he could have thrown the ball, but the exciting thing is he’s available in the future here for us.”

On the growing popularity of college baseball

“I get it. The 20-second clock has been productive. But I’m not so sure people wouldn’t come to the park anyway. Heck, everyone’s attention span is brutal because of what we hold in our hands all day long with our phones.

But, man, this thing has turned into a monster. The draft is shorter. There’s fewer minor league teams. There’s more resources that these kids see. I don’t want any scouts to slash my tires, but it certainly makes sense for a lot of guys now to go on to school.

Grahovak is the size of probably some of the trucks on that campus down there. And the guy behind him is bigger. You look at our infielder, not one of those four guy looks like a n infielder, other than Blake Burke kind of looks like a big first baseman.

These little kids, but also adults have these guys that — you could go pay a ton of money and watch the Braves play. But you can get right up close to these guys. And they’re the next guy on the Braves or the Phillies or whatever it might be.

And then you sprinkle in the constant drama all season long that you kind of only get in MLB and the playoffs.

So, like I said, it’s turned into a monster, and a lot of it is because of the celebrities that I get to throw BP to, or that we get to stress about getting Charlie Condon out or whoever it might be.

So I think you could make it two and a half hours, you could make it four hours, which if it’s a big game, it’s probably going to be four with the commercials and all that BS. But I think you show up and you have your hot dog. If you want to have a beverage, have a beverage. And you yell stuff at me if you’re wearing maroon. And the orange people yell crazy stuff at the other team.

I don’t know that you would want it any other way. Obviously we would have liked to get the win tonight, but pretty damn good stuff. But unfortunately we don’t get to enjoy it like you guys; we need to try to do our jobs. And we certainly need to do it better than we did tonight, at least I need to.”

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