Knoxville Super Regional: Anonymous Coaches Break Down Tennessee, LSU
Coach: Tony Vitello
Postseason history: Third super regional appearance (first since 2005). Seeking fifth trip to Omaha and first since 2005.
Postseason route: No. 1 seed in Knoxville Regional. Went 3-0, defeating Liberty in regional final.
Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Volunteers)
“They’ve got a lot of good players, but they just have ‘it.’ Whatever ‘it’ is, they have it. The confidence, the competitiveness, they have it. They play with tremendous energy. What I think is cool about them is they have a lot of good players and future pros, but it’s not a super prospect-heavy team. It’s not like they have all these top-three round picks. They do everything well. I wouldn’t pick out one thing that’s great, but they throw a ton of strikes, play good defense, there’s length to their lineup, strength, athleticism, power—they’re very good across the board. I wouldn’t put a 70 (on the 20-80 scale) on anything except the it factor. They’re good at everything and they have ‘it.’
“The biggest difference late in the season is Blade Tidwell is a dude. Chad Dallas, he’s your older guy who pounds the strike zone, he’s super competitive and he has two breaking balls he throws for a strike at will. Tidwell is up to 97, he throws a ton of strikes, his breaking ball is better and he’s commanding it better. That’s what they do now, Dallas to Tidwell and Will Heflin in game three if they get to it.
“Their lineup is really heating up. They’re hitting .281 with 92 home runs, 71 stolen bases and they’re fielding .976. All those numbers are good but not great except the home runs. They could trade their 3-hole for their 7-hole or swap out cleanup and their eight spot. They all have different skill sets but they’re all the same player. Liam Spence always leads off and Jake Rucker is probably their best feel-to-hit guy. Pete Derkey, Luc Lipcius, Drew Gilbert all feel interchangeable and even Connor Pavolony has made progress.
“Their pitching staff has got to have the fewest amount of walks in the league. They throw so many strikes. Now, you’re saying you better get five hits in an inning and put up a crooked number because we’re going to put up a couple crooked numbers.
“They’re older in the bullpen. Sean Hunley is all fastballs and it’s 90 but he keeps it out of the middle of the plate and he’s got some ride. Redmond Walsh has been there like seven years. (Pitching coach) Frank Anderson pieces it together. Obviously, he’s a heck of a coach.
“You have to beat Tennessee. They’re not going to chase out of the zone, they’re not going to walk you, they’re not going to kick it around. They’ve got some real belief.”
Coach: Paul Mainieri
Postseason history: 15th super regional appearance (second straight). Seeking 19th trip to Omaha and first since 2017.
Postseason route: No. 3 seed in Eugene Regional. Went 4-1, defeating Oregon in regional final.
Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Tigers)
“Good for Paul. He’s always been so classy. The dude’s won 1,500 games, he’s got to be a great coach and the kids have to like him.
“You can go 13-17 in our league and win a regional. They’ve got a lot of talent. They’re young and they got exposed on the mound when they lost Jaden Hill. Landon Marceaux is a dude but they had to pitch some of these guys before they were ready. They’re piecing it together. (Pitching coach) Alan Dunn has been coaching pitching a long time. Their SEC schedule was front heavy and they forced guys in there early. Now, they’re growing up.
“Marceaux can just throw that curveball for a strike with his eyes closed. It’s a plus breaking ball. He can throw it to both sides of the plate with a blindfold. In this day of stuff, he can really move the ball around, especially that breaking ball. He started the first game last weekend and then pitched in relief. I wonder how they’ll use him now, if they’ll give him an extra day.
“Marceaux is a dude who can match up with anyone, they’ve got enough offensively, they’re physical.
“It’s an uncomfortable feeling when Gavin Dugas and Dylan Crews are up to bat. Those guys are one swing away from changing the game and they can hit—they’ve got feel to hit and power. Tre’ Morgan is a great table setter. He’s an energy player. I love the fact they lead him off.
“Crews and Dugas are real threats and these other guys are coming hot a little bit. Cade Doughty, he’s a 12-homer guy and he’s something. Zach Arnold and Jordan Thompson, they’re getting better. These guys they invested in that weren’t ready in March, they’re getting better.
“They’ve got some holes. Those top-five teams in the league are better than everyone else but LSU has some pieces to compete.”
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Sunday, 12 p.m. or 3 p.m. (ESPN2 or ESPNU)
Monday, 4 p.m. or 7 p.m. (ESPN2 or ESPNU) - If necessary