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College World Series pressure on Tennessee Vols Tony Vitello?

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Tennessee avoided a monstrous defeat over the weekend. In case you weren’t noticing, the highly touted Vols showed up code blue against the Evansville Purple Aces at times. The resuscitation was just in time.

Without rehashing the morbid details, Tennessee began the series adequately with a 11-6 win against Evansville on Friday. So, it was simple, right? Tennessee would easily beat the Aces on Saturday to advance to the College World Series this week in Omaha, Neb. That wasn’t the case after the Vols bats failed them on multiple occasions in a 10-8 Game Two loss. The series on Sunday culminated with a 12-1 Vols’ win.

The annual trip to Omaha is becoming expected nowadays considering Tennessee coach Tony Vitello has gotten the Vols to the College World Series two times in the past three seasons, 2021 and 2023. Now, the Vols will take their third trip to Omaha under Vitello. So is this the year? Well, that depends. First, the Vols will have to prove they can continue hitting home runs at a record pace.

The Vols’ power at the plate is their strength. However, that can be a challenge at Charles Schwab Field Omaha, formerly known as Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. The park is big, spacious and pitcher friendly. That’s not the best venue for Tennessee’s team this season. 

There’s an interesting case study currently going on in Tennessee’s athletic department. The Vols have two coaches who have had success, but not the ultimate postseason success: baseball coach Tony Vitello and basketball coach Rick Barnes. However, the two are viewed very differently.

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Let’s start with this. Vitello, whose career is just beginning, is just 45-years-old. Barnes will be 70 in July. Barnes has only made one Final Four in his career, which will likely be deemed Hall of Fame worthy when he decides to retire. Vitello has many more chapters to complete in his career.

While fans wonder about Barnes, that it would almost feel like a welcomed bonus if the Vols can make a Final Four or (gasp) win a national championship. However, it feels like a foregone conclusion that the Vols will make multiple College World Series under Vitello moving forward and likely win a championship or two. Will that happen at Tennessee? We’ll see. Some Twitter buzz had Vitello pegged to take the Texas job on Sunday, but nothing has been reported to any degree of credibility.

Wherever Vitello coaches, he’ll have some pressure – thanks to his own success. Making the College World Series is where Vitello has set the bar. Anything else is a disappointing season. Will there be a time in which a lack of success in Omaha will be deemed disappointing? If so, is there more pressure on Vitello? Well, there would be at Texas.

Here is one thing for Vitello to keep in mind if he is thinking about the Texas job. He will be a hired gun for the Longhorns. Despite attending Missouri, Vitello feels like a homegrown guy at Tennessee. He’s as East Tennessee as The Strip used to be.

Vitello can reproduce the success he’s had at Tennessee or even fall a bit short of it and still have a long career in Knoxville. He’s going to unquestionably get the benefit of the doubt if any of his actions or performance is called into question. At Texas? No way.

Now, before Vitello lands his next big job or leads the New York Yankees to a World Series Championship, let’s take a look at how he handled the weekend. It’s hard to imagine a team that has been as tested as often as the Vols have been having multiple occasions in which they went dormant at the plate or brain dead in the infield, giving up multiple plays on short hits that turned into blunders.

There would have simply been no excuse for the Vols to lose to Evansville. The Vols are the No. 1-overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They shouldn’t have ever been in danger of losing to a school named after a city.

The Vols are taking one of the best teams in school history to Omaha, but they’re far from perfect. The Vols have their holes, but Vitello certainly isn’t one of them. It’s only a matter of time until another school comes calling – seriously.

Coaches by nature aren’t loyal. However, Tennessee has put their best foot forward with Vitello and he seems very genuine is his affinity for Tennessee, which has supported him in multiple areas, most notably the ongoing stadium and facility renovations.

There’s certainly a chance that Texas decided to move on after the Vols bumbled through their weekend against the Aces. Hopefully for Tennessee’s sake, the Big Orange will see red in Nebraska.

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