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What Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Took Game Two Against Texas A&M

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball used stout pitching and a pair of two run homers to stave off elimination and defeat Texas A&M 4-1 in game two of the College World Series finals on Sunday afternoon.

The Vols trailed 1-0 from the bottom of the first inning until Dylan Dreiling’s go ahead two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Following the game, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed what went well for his pitching staff, them not growing frustrated by its runners in-scoring position struggles and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: How Tennessee Baseball Got The Job Done Against Texas A&M On Saturday Afternoon

Opening statement

“It was an SEC war, or just a postseason war. And in that situation, if you had your druthers, you’d like to have the last at-bat because you know the ninth inning is going to be full of drama.

But I think our kids kept their composure in that ninth inning including Ariel in a real tough play. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt there. But it was a do-or-die deal where you couldn’t shy away. You had to make a decision what you were going to do.

That to me was the theme of the day. I know it was an exciting win, maybe not the — you know the sexiest or whatever you want to call it. But there was a lot of teammates taking care of teammates. A lot of coaches picking up players, players picking up coaches with decisions and things like that.

Obviously it’s easy because the score is what it is. But I felt we were more true to who we were today in pregame, in the dugout, during the game. And, again, it’s easy to say that because we end up doing okay on the scoreboard. But I’d rather go into battle with that group the way they showed up today and hope they do the same tomorrow.”

On Aaron Combs

“He also wants to be coached. And I mean, he says he’s available tomorrow. So maybe it’s premature, but one of my favorite guys to coach.

He’s just awesome, man. He’s got that stupid chuckle, and obviously he’s got some talent. But he’s so receptive to anything that you bring to him, and he’s so easy to have a conversation.

And he’s got a real good balance of believing in himself, which these kids all see swagger and they listen to rap songs and stuff like that. So they have their chest out. But there’s got to be a decent combination there. You should think you’re the best when you’re between the lines, but you also need to realize you wouldn’t be between the lines without all the people that helped you, whether it’s — his family is awesome. And we’re excited about his brother coming here next year.

But there’s a lot of coaches besides Frank that have helped put him in a position, and it applies to other players too.

And in this day and age, you see it fading a little bit. And I’ve kind of had convos with a couple of their guys just because we’ve been passing them the stadium. There’s a lot of kids that are really talented for both teams, but also a lot of kids that just do it the right way. And it’s helped both teams maximize what they have on their roster.

Combsy is fun as hell. He’d be a fun hang, but I guess I’m too old.”

On Drew Beam’s outing

“And he was what he did the other day. We weren’t able to win his first game that he threw in Omaha for us. But our record when he pitches is pretty damn good. You guys can look it up and tally it up, whatever it is.

But his record for three years was incredible, just in general. But then if you look at the outcome of the game just when he was personally on the mound, it was phenomenal. Again, it speaks to what type of person he is.

Totally different than Aaron, but those same positive traits you enjoy as a coach. You never got out of your car going into our parking lot wondering whether Drew was going to show up to work with the right mentality, whether he would be receptive to coaching, whether he would have an unselfish approach. And you always knew he would hook it up on the field for you.”

On the ninth inning pitching changes

“The Combs decision was tough. Again, we wouldn’t be in this position without him. If you took a vote in the dugout, which sometimes you do or sometimes you just have to take responsibility for decisions like the bunt. You can feel free to ask me about. And it was split. It was split in the dugout.

And then he comes down and says, I’m fine. What are you going to do? I think if you’re a Vol fan, you probably boo the coaching staff if you don’t see that guy come out of the dugout. But I’m not so sure that he wasn’t on fumes there.

So just to peel back the curtain, what we talked about to the bullpen was this is going to be a three-man effort no matter what to finish the inning. In the ideal world, Combsy gets a guy, and we might have went to Kirby anyway for the match-up. And Snead was hot to come in. And we’ve been telling him that he was going to finish the game.

I don’t know that it’s exactly like that, but kind of shades of Vanderbilt. We typically had been using Snead on Sundays. And I think that’s a game where Snead came in and got the two outs. And today he had to get three.”

On what’s changed for Zander Sechrist from going from midweek guy to big game pitcher

“I don’t know. I don’t care, to be honest with you. It’s a baseball game. It’s kind of like the bunt thing. I wanted to throw myself off a ledge there because it looks like, hey, let’s get C-Mo in a position where he can drive in two runs potentially and then you take it off because Cal is in an advantage count. I could explain the numbers and all that stuff.

But the bottom line is you have to make tough decisions over the course of a game. And fans can tweet about him and say this or that. But the one thing, with all due respect, we wouldn’t be here without our fans, they get to do that on Twitter and voice their opinion, and then they get to go to the bars because I can hear, it goes all night long, I can hear from my level.

And I wish I could do that, to be honest with you, too. But I grew up in this damn household with crazy Greg Vitello and kind of got into this deal right here.

With your decisions, you have to live with it. And when the game’s over, we go back to the hotel and I’ve worked with the guy across the dugout, too. No one’s more invested than him. And we live with it. And you think about it. And then you start preparing for the next day. It’s all you do.

So trust me, it means a lot to us, you know what I mean?

So but having said that, I would like to come to the park and say, Aaron Combs, you’re in the game. And that’s the best feeling in the world. It’s like having Redmond Walsh out there. We win, we won because he’s good. We lose, I’ll go ride or die with that guy any day of the week.

And we’ve got a ball game tomorrow, and Zander gets to pitch again. I’m more excited by the fact he gets another opportunity to run out there and do whatever the stuff is that he does.

And I think his progression has been just getting more comfortable. You’ve got to kind of navigate through certain situations, whether it’s pitching on the road, pitching in the postseason. You build up reps and if you’re smart, you’ve got some aptitude, you probably get a little bit better at it.”

On sticking with Cal Stark through his struggles at the plate this week

“Similar, same answer, without getting too dramatic on you is he’s a ball player. And he’s an unbelievable kid. And he’s so sound defensively. Peebles does it different. You could argue he can match up with Cal with some certain things.

But Cal has been our guy for a couple of years. And he’s experienced so much and he knows how to work or orchestrate a game from behind that position and be that leader. I don’t know, he’s our Jake Taylor, I guess.”

On handling frustrations with leaving runners on base during the game

“It’s a delicate balance, because we had bases loaded twice, I believe, and didn’t have anything to show for it. If you look at those at-bats, two of our best guys didn’t necessarily look themselves. And I think it was probably because there’s a little extra tension or a little extra try-hard. But it’s kind of hard to not have that.

And also Cortez is really good. And I think, in particular, I don’t know what he said, but in particular, I think he had a good day for himself as well.

So there were a couple times where it’s, like, hey, we need to relax or change the mojo a little bit. But it was kind of the flow of the game. There’s usually a flow to a game, even in the postseason, where it’s chaos. And it was challenging for us.

And I think the biggest thing is just to relax and play ball. That served us well, and I think that the tension stuff that maybe appeared a time or two since we’ve been here, it clearly doesn’t work.”

On what went wrong while they were 0-for-16 with runners on base

“Probably the head coach being out of control. I don’t know. I mean, good competition, you know? And also at times the park can play a little bit different. I think it’s pretty cool, Jace hit one for them and we got the ball deep there at the end. Both teams had several balls deep.

We hit a couple of homers. It’s unique in this park. Normally things kind of happen 90 feet at a time or doubles and then you have stuff like that happen. So maybe guys just trying to do a little too much and getting big and getting outside of themselves.

I think sometimes you throw out, shorten your swing in the dugout. All it really means is just stay true to your swing that you train in the cage.

And I’m sure the other team would argue or other people that would listen to this for whatever reason, but I feel like we’re in the cage more than anybody. So you might as well invest in that time or let your investment, I should say, in the cage pay off and just use your swing.”

On what the next 25 hours will be like, if he’ll be able to sleep

“No, I left one of my damn AirPods — I pulled a Zander and left one of them. So I had one in and I could hear the party out on the street. So last night was tough to sleep.

I’ll put both those in. You just go sound machine — brown noise instead of white noise for me personally. You can make your own selection.

But, yeah, you’ve got to eat. You’ve got to rest. You’ve got to say hi to your family. Got some friends in town. So probably can’t take in Omaha the way they will, but at least say hi to them. And I think you just gotta be a dude because they’re probably champing at the bit to get back out there in the old backyard baseball redo or rematch.

And I think our guys, just hearing their conversations, it’s kind of like, you know, 1-1 has kind of been the theme for us this year. A lot of game threes. So you can’t do that, though. You’ve got to be a dude and do those things. And then start to filter down to game time and we’ll approach pregame as we see fit. And then 6:09, just play ball.”

On pitching coach Frank Anderson

“He acts like a small town guy. I guess I shouldn’t have said that. No offense to anybody. We like giving him crap because he dishes it out to so many people including umpires and things like that. I think we’ve got that under control for now. He’s been around the block, starting with his roots.

I mean, I love the fact that he basically forced his way into coaching. I mean, he’s doing laundry at a junior college when things were different.

And he’s a self-made man. And he’s been in about any situation you can imagine, including the situation we’re in tomorrow.

But he’s just given me comfort from day one. Wanted to have somebody that had head-coaching experience, somebody that could relieve the stress of kind of what’s the most important thing. Coaching up the pitchers, and on top of that, it’s kind of like a campfire — anytime we’re up in the office or at a table and he wants to tell a story, he’s known — he knows baseball about as well as anybody.

I was talking with one of the umpires. We ran into each other at a coffee shop. And what a weird conundrum. He’s so competitive and ornery when he’s in uniform, and he tries to hide it. But he’s one of the best individuals I know.

If someone’s sick, he’s the first one to — just get soup for somebody, which these kids all Door Dash crap now. I don’t know if he knows that. But he’s one of the more caring and kind-hearted guys there is, which is insane if you haven’t been next to him because when he was at other schools and we were competing against him, I would have thought the opposite, let’s put it that way. A benefit just to have him on our staff. And certainly a benefit that he’s got the experience that he does.”

On Christian Moore exiting the game in the ninth inning

“He was doing media and stuff afterwards. So I didn’t have a personal conversation with him. But we had a couple sliding into second, just back of his leg was something that came up during Evansville.

And he made an outstanding play out there. So it’s not like he can’t move around. But we just felt like with the potential situations coming up, it made more sense for Ariel.

And I say “we.” I mean, eventually you put Ariel out there. But yesterday, did what I thought was the best thing. But at this point it’s kind of up to Hunter being out there, C-Mo being out there, who is going to play center, who is going to play right. They’ve made me look smart and they’ve gotten us as far as they have. And the other thing they’ve done is made me a happy fella.

I already got emotional trying not to wuss out on you here, but if we want a belt at all or any kind of trophy, today, it was the same as A&M. We got to be around each other more than any team in the country. And we had a dry erase board meeting. And the guys wanted to lead the country in velo and RBIs and all kinds of crazy stuff.

And it was kind of a trick question. What the coaching staff wanted to lead the country in is unselfish type thing, having fun and getting to be around each other as much as possible.

So I know Hot Sauce was here. He can respect the belt analogy. So we at least brought one belt home today.”

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