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Tennessee Confident It Will Bounce Back In Game Two Against Texas A&M

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

OMAHA, Neb. — Tennessee is on the brink of elimination after dropping game one of the College World Series finals 9-5 against Texas A&M on Saturday night.

The Vols played poorly, compounding shaky pitching performances with poor defense in their first loss in Omaha. With its season on the brink, what gives Tennessee confidence that they’ll respond on Sunday and force a deciding game three?

“The fact that we’ve done it before,” right-handed pitcher AJ Causey said postgame. “We’re not new to this.”

In fact, Tennessee has done it often throughout the season. The Vols have lost back-to-back games just once this season— on March 16 and 17 against Alabama.

Since then, Tennessee has won 10 series, the SEC Tournament, a regional and the four-team tournament in the first half of the College World Series.

“You go through the season and you welcome competition for a reason; it will make you better in a few different ways,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “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.”

Since their SEC series-opening loss at Alabama, the Vols have dropped the series opener three times. Those series win came against a bad Auburn team, a super regional Georgia team and a College World Series Kentucky team.

More From RTI: Everything Tony Vitello Said After Game One Loss Against Texas A&M

“It’s a three-round fight,” catcher Cal Stark said. “No matter who wins the first one, someone is going to have to win the second one. So we’ll come back and try to get the second one tomorrow.”

Vitello noted that his team got a little too emotional at times during the game which checked out due to some of the defensive miscues and poor at-bats with runners in-scoring position.

That hasn’t been a problem for this team all season but they stage hasn’t been this is an even bigger stage than they’ve seen this season. But this has been a mature team all season and there’s more evidence pointing to them responding correctly than the contrary.

“Come out and compete,” Stark said. “Play loose. Play aggressive. No tension in the air. We’re out there playing baseball on a field with a lot of fans. Just have fun.”

Despite the disappointing performance, Tennessee did provide reasons for optimism because they forced Texas A&M to use elite reliever Evan Aschenbeck to pitch the final 2.2 innings where he threw 46 pitches. For an Aggies’ pitching staff that is thin due to injuries, that could prove important.

“Obviously we’ve got some of the best hitters in the country,” Causey said.

First pitch for game two of the College World Series finals is at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. ABC is broadcasting the game.

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