Vols’ great win was then, Tar Heels are now

Marvin Westwestwords

It really ain’t over until it’s over.

Thank you to Virgil and Doug and other perceptive readers who sent emails and said they accepted the Yogi-ism as apropos to the magic trick Tennessee pulled on Florida State in the ninth inning Friday evening at the College World Series.

Yogi Berra is an easy fit for this time and place. Like Vol coach Tony Vitello, Yogi was born in St. Louis. Like Yogi, Tony is Italian. Yogi had many colorful things to say. Tony shares occasional thoughts with umpires.

Some of Yogi’s treasured gems were enhanced but he really said it ain’t over in 1973. I have an authentic collection, under lock and key.

He also gave us:

  • “It’s deja vu all over again.”
  • “Never answer an anonymous letter.”
  • “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
  • “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
  • “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
  • “Always go to other people’s funerals, or they won’t come to yours.”

The shocking 12-11 defeat the Volunteers hung on the Seminoles probably wasn’t a benediction. There was no closing hymn. The losers have a good team. It just had a little trouble with Christian Moore and couldn’t prevent an earthquake or stop a tidal wave.

Tennessee has won 56 games this season. This was the first on a walk-off hit. Vitello wants you to believe he was confident.

“I assure you that I was. We just talked about getting on base.”

Do you think the coach showed postgame emotion? Well, he did kiss the bat Dylan Dreiling used to bang out the biggest hit. I don’t think Tony bothered to wipe off the dirt.

Kavares Tears #21

Kavares Tears launched the comeback with a triple and provided insight.

“I honestly knew something special was going to happen when we got down,” said Tears. “Coach V talks all the time about the game isn’t over until the umpires blow the whistle, and there’s no whistle in baseball. So, the game is never over.

“That’s what we were thinking the whole time in the dugout. We kept telling each other to keep going, keep going, keep going. We knew we were going to get them at one point.”

The dramatic rally was a day and a half ago. It did not clinch the championship. Tennessee faces North Carolina this evening, starting at 7 on ESPN2. The tournament goes on and on.

The Vols are where they wanted to be. How they got there wasn’t exactly what they had in mind. They turned their worst performance of the season into one of the biggest wins in Tennessee baseball history.

Winners’ bracket is a good place. Vance Honeycutt did it again for North Carolina. The Tar Heels needed a two-out hit in the bottom of the ninth to turn back Virginia. The junior centerfielder delivered a single.

Five of UNC’s last nine victories have been secured in its final at-bat. This was the fourth time the Tar Heels have pulled out a white-knuckle win in the tournament. Pinch-hitter Jackson Van de Brake set the table with a cue shot to right. He was an unlikely hero. He was batting just .194 on the season.

There were plenty of surprises in the Tennessee-Florida State game. The Seminoles took advantage of some soft spots. They took extra bases when outfielders lacked focus. The Vols made enough mistakes to lose three games. They won in spite of themselves.

If Vitello actually had a pitching plan, it didn’t work. Opener Chris Stamos stayed for eight pitches. The first play was a blunder. Burke, first baseman, pursued a routine grounder to the second baseman, Moore. Stamos didn’t cover first in time.

Stamos walked a batter. An infield out put runners at first and third. Vitello called for A.J. Causey, earlier than he has for nine straight weeks. A.J. had gone 9-1 with an ERA of 2.38 with 75 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 56.2 innings.

This time was very different. He uncorked a wild pitch that let in a run. He became the weakest link to the Seminoles’ six-run third inning that erased a 4-1 Tennessee lead and led to the poor pitching parade.

For six and a half innings, the Seminoles looked to be winning. At worst, the Vols trailed by five runs. There were weird misplays. The Vols appeared disjointed. They were down 11-8 for the bottom of the ninth. Neither team will ever forget the ending.

The checked swing was crucial. It could have gone either way. If the umpire had said strike three, game over, FSU wins. The ump said no swing. The Seminoles paid a painful price. Go Vols!

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

 

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