Tennessee baseball: Tony Vitello has officially turned Vols into a powerhousw

After Tennessee baseball’s three-game sweep in Texas, the Volunteers are officially a powerhouse program under third-year coach Tony Vitello.

It’s official. There’s no questioning it now. Tennessee baseball has become a powerhouse program, and the Vols proved it by beating the No. 1 ranked team in the country and two top 25 games overall in a three-game sweep to become the champions of the inaugural Round Rock Classic in Round Rock, Texas.

This was most impressive regular season weekend of Tony Vitello’s tenure and maybe in school history. At 7-0, UT was supposed to take a step back. Yes, the 2019 team made its first NCAA Tournament in 14 years, but they lost six players to the MLB Draft, and they lost four players from their everyday lineup, three starting pitchers and their ace reliever overall.

As a result, Tennessee baseball was supposed to take a step back in Vitello’s third year, and despite going 40-21 last year, reaching NCAA Regionals and finishing the year ranked No. 24, they came into this year unranked. A 4-0 start didn’t put them anywhere near the rankings either as they went down to Texas. None of it mattered.

The Vols used elite pitching and the long ball to beat the top-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders Friday night. It looked like it could be a fluke, though, as they were trailing the Houston Cougars 4-3 heading into the seventh inning on Saturday. But they scored three runs in the seventh and two in the ninth, building off of three they scored in the first, to win 8-4.

Finally, on Sunday, they faced the No. 25 ranked Stanford Cardinal. Despite taking a 2-0 lead, Stanford tied it by the fifth. But once again, pitching controlled most of the game, and errors by Stanford allowed the Vols to score a run in the sixth and three runs in the seventh. Another run in the eighth put them up 7-2.

So Tennessee baseball won in every way possible over the weekend. It pitching on Friday and Sunday, home runs on Friday, good old-fashioned hitting on Saturday, and avoiding errors while the other team made plenty on Sunday.

Now, as a result, they are 7-0 with two huge wins. And with a 10-home stand, all against teams outside of the top 25, before beginning SEC play at the South Carolina Gamecocks during the weekend beginning March 13, the Vols have a very good chance to get to 17-0 and in the top 10 with gigantic victories on their resume.

Taking that into account, Vitello has earned a ton of credit. He did his part to rebuild the roster and offset the losses that his team suffered this past year. Three of the nine everyday starters are freshmen or sophomores, and seven of them are players whom Vitello specifically signed. The same is true with every starting pitcher.

Simply put, it’s safe to say Vitello has done an amazing job bringing in talent, and it’s showing now. For all his faults, John Currie deserves credit for hiring Vitello in the first place. Nobody has built up a program to prominence as he has done Tennessee baseball.

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Years of success by the Tennessee softball program made everybody wonder if baseball would catch up. Well, maybe it’s premature, but given what Vitello did this past weekend, baseball is catching up. That was an extremely impressive performance, and it shows UT is here to stay.