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Tony Vitello praises SEC dominance in baseball: 'I think the gap is widening'

FaceProfileby:Thomas Goldkamp05/11/24

The SEC often offers a terrific finish to the conference slate, with a couple teams battling for the league crown. This year will be no different, based on where things currently stand.

Kentucky carried a one-game lead in the conference standings over Tennessee and Arkansas entering Saturday’s games, but the Wildcats dropped a contest to the Florida Gators in the early game Saturday, throwing the door wide open for the lead.

Tennessee coach Tony Vitello has seen how competitive the league can be and loves every bit of it. The SEC is simply the best, he said.

“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of it obviously assistant-wise and now here for a while,” Vitello said. “I honestly think the gap is widening. I know somebody might egg my car or slash my tires, but in other sports like football, basketball, there’s give and take.

“And I just think with our league, big part of it is the draft and of course the transfer portal. Kids from the West coast, you’re seeing it with A&M‘s roster, Dean Curley, they want to come be a part of this thing. So I think the gap is widening for our league and it just makes it more stressful but more fun too.”

Tennessee led Vanderbilt 1-0 in the top of the third inning on Saturday, a result that would put it into a tie for the SEC lead if it holds through the end of the contest.

Vitello’s bunch is dangerous again, much like they were in 2022.

Still, he tipped his cap to some of the other conference title race contenders, notably Kentucky.

“The team that should be No. 1 is probably the team that’s in first place,” Vitello said. “I believe it’s Kentucky who, somebody made up a quote I said about them that I’d like stricken from the record as well.”

The quote Vitello was referencing was a quip about cheerleading that was improperly attributed to Kentucky following a series against the ‘Cats.

He explained further that he was discussing Cannon Peebles stepping into a clutch pinch-hitting appearance in that SEC series.

“Well I was talking about our team and I said something about cheerleading, if someone wants to decide how they want to label that that’s fine, but I was talking about our cheerleading team,” Vitello said. “I work at Tennessee. Tennessee and myself, especially when you see my behavior last night, I was saying no disrespect to our cheerleading team because I’m around them during those football games. They let me do push-ups with them.”

Cheerleaders or not, there will certainly be plenty to cheer about for fans of excellent baseball down the stretch in the SEC race.