On Feb. 10, Head Baseball Coach Tony Vitello and sophomore infielder Max Ferguson spoke to the media ahead of their season opener scheduled this Friday.
Vitello and Ferguson talked about last season, including experience from multiple players returning and playing in the postseason. Vitello also explained what he plans to do with his team early in the season until some questions are answered.
“Really, we feel even better about one through nine [in the batting order]. I don’t think there’s really one guy we need to look to,” Vitello said about the Vols’ batting order.
Additionally, he said the lineup consists of players that are freshmen to seniors, and they will not have to rely on any one or two players.
Recently there have been some injuries, sickness and inconsistencies bugging Tennessee’s pitching staff. Vitello said he is making sure not to overreact to anything right now and try to let the pieces fall into place early in the season.
“It’d be great to stand up here and say this is the one-two-three, this is the closer, but I think there’s going to be a lot of experimentation the first four or five games,” Vitello explained.
He also said that this experimentation will be good for the team in figuring out who is able to play.
The improvements and exposure to new territories Tennessee had last year will help them in this upcoming season, according to Vitello. In 2019, the Vols played in Hoover, Alabama at the SEC tournament, a regional tournament in Chapel Hill, North Carolina as well as going on the road against challenging SEC opponents.
“Those unknowns have evaporated. I think you can call it experience if you want, no longer having uncharted territory helps these guys,” Vitello said on the team’s previous postseason.
Next weekend, the Vols will travel to Round Rock, Texas to compete in the Round Rock Classic. While it is a good opportunity for the team to get on the road before SEC play, players like Ferguson are not looking too far ahead.
“We are excited because that is a big tournament. We’re playing good teams and we get to see where we stack up against them,” Ferguson said. “But that is a week away, and we have to get ready for this weekend, and I’m really excited for Friday.”
Vitello stressed the importance of getting experience on the road early in the season and how it can impact the team when SEC games start.
“We want to make sure we get on the road at least once before SEC play and challenge ourselves because if you aren’t ready, it’ll punch you in the gut, then the jaw then maybe the back of the head,” he said.
The Vols open up the 2020 baseball season on Feb. 14 when Western Illinois comes to Knoxville for a three-game series spanning Friday through Sunday.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ryan Sylvia
Photo by Hayden Flatt