Videos by OutKick
There was a redemption feeling for this Tennessee baseball team as they ran through the regular season and set their eyes on the SEC Tournament. After coming up one game short last season in Hoover, winning the tournament was just another bump in the road they had to pass. They had done everything right up until this point, which included winning the SEC regular season title. But now, Tony Vitello and his team have to finish what they started.
There will be folks out there waiting for the Vols to slip up in the regionals or super regionals, that comes with the territory of being the best team in college baseball, but it also reflects the way in which they play the game. Thinking back to when Tony Vitello first arrived at Tennessee, there weren’t many folks around the conference worried about what was happening in Knoxville.
For first baseman Luc Lipcius, winning the both the SEC titles this season is a quick reminder to what he endured when first stepping foot on campus in Knoxville.
“You know, it means everything. When I came in here, we weren’t really expected to do much. We were kind of the laughingstock of the SEC. And then these guys, V and his coaching staff, they came in, they did their thing, and they’re great at recruiting and making players better. That’s one big thing that they preach is just get better, and it’s just really awesome to see it come full circle and now we’re on the top of the SEC.”
It’s never been about himself, Tony Vitello will constantly remind you of that. Support is a key component to building a program and he has had his fair share of help along the way. But it’s always been centered around getting Tennessee back into the SEC fold, just like former coach Rod Delmonico. We hear that name a lot coming from Tony, but it’s a motivating factor for him that he uses to guide himself through the brunt of it all. So bringing the first SEC Tournament championship back to Knoxville since the Delmonico days aren’t lost on Vitello.
“It means a lot. You’d like to be mentioned in the same breath as somebody that has a huge legacy. I kind of joke about some of our guys being mentioned with Todd. If you look at the wall, you look at the accomplishments, we haven’t sniffed anything that Coach Delmonico or those teams have done, but it’s nice to refresh people’s memories. They bring it up, the last time I was at a game or the last time I saw this.
“We didn’t set out too many goals when we got the job, but that was one of them,” Vitello added. “There’s a blueprint there for how he did things and how some other guys had success. So you want to copy that, and you also want to see Vol Nation — Hoover is very happy that Vol Nation was here.”
But this baseball team is not satisfied with SEC titles, they want redemption in Omaha. But to get the opportunity to prove folks wrong, they must get there first and it won’t be easy. There’s something about this team though, the ability to continue battling around the outside noise, even after dropping two games in Lexington a few weeks ago. This team has shown that when adversity strikes, they become even closer, which is one of the factors that has gotten them to this point.
But even as they celebrated on the field in Hoover, you could tell that this group was ready to get back to Knoxville and start preparing for the NCAA Tournament. They hadn’t been home in over twelve days, but still wanted to take a moment and soak it in with the thousands of fans that made the trip.
Drew Gilbert summed it up best when discussing how this team wants to finish out this season, knowing the next two weekends will determine if they will have a shot at redemption in Omaha.
“Obviously really cool to win the SEC tournament but we have bigger goals in mind and still have a lot of baseball in front of us.”