OMAHA (WDEF) — The Tennessee Volunteers are trying to make their fifth trip to Omaha count. But with a bigger ballpark and no home field advantage, the Vols could be fighting an uphill battle.
“Tony’s group, they deserve to be there. They’re good,” former national champion and Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said.
The Tennessee Base-Vols have put the country on notice after powering through a rowdy regional and super regional at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Now, the Vols head to unfriendly, and unfamiliar territory.
“I was thinking out in the outfield, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be,” senior Evan Russell said.
“Everyone’s going to, it’s going to be inevitable that everyone has some sort of extra nerves or different feelings going into the first pitch or leading up to the anthem,” Vols coach Tony Vitello said.
Tennessee’s bombs blasted the road to Omaha — with 16 homers in five tournament games. However, the home run happy offense will have to adjust to a bigger ballpark.
“There’s a lot more foul ground,” Vitello said. “That’s one thing that plays into it a little bit. If you catch it on the right day, it could play a little more offensive, but for the most part it’s going to favor the pitchers.”
Kind of bad news, good news for Tennessee, whose pitching staff has one of the lowest ERAs in Omaha.
“If there’s any advantage to this ballpark is that Hoover (Alabama) is kind of a modified version of this,” Vitello said. “It’s a huge neutral crowd. It’s media attention. It’s police escorts. It’s heavy competition. It’s more foul ground. It’s a park that plays bigger. It might be one reason why some SEC teams in the past have had some success.”
Tennessee’s neighbor Vanderbilt also made the trip — looking for its third national championship.
“There’s only one state with two teams here this year. It’s something I think should be celebrated,” Vitello said.
“When we played them, I think made mention to the coaches how that’s going to end up being an Omaha team. You could just feel it. They were very aggressive,” said Corbin, who took the earlier series from Tennessee, 2-1.
“The fact that Coach Corbin had that to say about our club means a lot because he knows what it looks like,” Vitello said. “He and a few other coaches have been here multiple, multiple times and they know what it looks like. I wish he would’ve come over and said that to me on Sunday. I would’ve been in a better mood because we did lose that series. But I think it was something that prepared us for something deeper down the road.”
“I think it’s pretty awesome to see that we’ve kind of slid in and made a mark,” Russell said. “We’re surrounded by teams who have been here consistently. I think we’re ready to take that challenge. We’re not here just to be here. We kind of want to make a statement and see how far we can go.”