“When I came here, we weren’t really expected to do much. We were kind of the laughingstock of the SEC,” said first baseman Luc Lipcius, a sixth-year graduate student. “And then ‘V’ and his coaching staff, they came in, they did their thing. … Now we’re on top of the SEC.”

And possibly there to stay. Vitello initially focused his recruiting efforts in Tennessee but has started to branch out to his home state. The Vols already have verbal commitments from two of the best young pitchers in St. Louis: Lindbergh junior Dane Bjorn and St. Louis U. High sophomore Andrew DuMont. In Columbia, Rock Bridge freshman infielder Ty Thompson — a freshman! — has already pledged a commitment to Vitello.

The fans love him, too. Vitello’s fiery side got the best of him in an April game against Alabama when he bumped an umpire during an on-field argument, leading to a four-game suspension. But the SEC coach of the year turned the incident into a positive and further endeared himself to Vols fans. During the suspension, he attended a fraternity event on campus and wore a sign offering chest bumps for $2, with proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project.

— St. Louis Today

They’ll have to win the College World Series to solidify the title, but this Tennessee team might be the best team in college baseball history. Nobody, and I mean nobody, saw that coming when Tony Vitello was hired five years ago.

The speed of the program’s resurrection under Vitello has been dizzying. V’s dad talks about only 100 or so people being in the stands for the first game his son coached in Knoxville. Now tickets to a Tennessee baseball game are tougher to find than tickets to any other sporting event on campus. But the real question is how many people would attend a UT baseball game if this weekend’s regionals were being played at Neyland Stadium instead of Lindsey Nelson Stadium? 20,000? 30,000? Maybe even 40,000? It would certainly be a lot. East Tennessee is baseball crazy all of a sudden.

Published On: June 4th, 2022Categories: Baseball

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About the Author: Ben Garrett

I am a journalist and erstwhile web designer from East Tennessee. Home is on the eastern border of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. I write for a living, but not here ... because nobody is paying money for my opinions (except the New York Post, just once, and Donald Trump retweeted it).