Tennessee Baseball’s Run in Omaha Ends

By Mark Nagi

Tennessee’s baseball season came to an end last week at the College World Series following a 5-0 loss to LSU.  It was a difficult way to finish a campaign that began with sky high expectations but saw the Vols struggle to find their way for much of the season.

Still, they battled back, won the Regionals and Super Regionals, and got to the College World Series for only the sixth time in program history. While in Omaha the Vols won a game for the first time since 2001, a 6-4 victory over Stanford.

“I think it was a competitive group,” said Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello. “They can hang their hat on that. We talk about perspective. There’s a variety of traditions within each program. It takes a lot in our league to be able to brag about tradition. But for us, in particular, we wanted to get to a Regional and we wanted to have a roster that was really athletic that you guys would be excited to write about… and we wanted to get here (in 2021), and we didn’t win any games. Then we wanted to get here (in 2023) and win a game. And this group did it… pretty special group that would be remembered by everybody in this room for a lot of stuff. Love them or hate them. I love them.”

The season only ends with a victory for one team in the postseason, which makes the ending for every other squad a painful one. But the Vols can take a lot from their run in 2023.

“I think the thing I’ll remember the most is probably the tough times we had and just the hills we had to climb,” said Tennessee pitcher Drew Beam. “I mean, this season starts not just in February, it starts back in August when we get on campus in the fall. It’s a grind. You go through so much with your teammates and coaches. And you figure things out and things don’t work so you figure out something else. I think just those trials and tribulations that were thrown at us that we had to fight through as the season went on, that’s just the things you remember because you just push through it with your brothers, the guys beside you, the coaches beside you. That’s just the memorable part. The winning is great but making the bond and making it a family with the guys beside you is what you come out on top with.”

This was Tennessee’s second trip to the College World Series in the last three seasons. Vitello believes that his program grows each time with that advance to Omaha, with the learning process continuing.  2024 will be Vitello’s 7th season with the Vols.

“You’ve got to get used to the itinerary, the media attention, the stage, and things will be passed down by guys,” said Vitello. “We had some tough dudes on that 2021 team… But you’ve got to learn how to deal with rankings and expectations and then people start looking forward to playing you as opposed to maybe sleeping on you a little bit. There’s a variety of circumstances. And we want our stadium to get bigger. We want our crowds to keep getting bigger and rowdier. We want our roster to be as competitive as anybody’s. Of course, that will come and go a little bit. But to be able to handle things with shooting for a national championship every year.”