KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) —The University of Tennessee baseball program was honored by state lawmakers Wednesday afternoon for the success in the 2021 season that ended with the Vols’ first trip to the College World Series in over a decade.

Tennessee reached the 50 win mark for the third time in program history and Tony Vitello garnered two coach of the year awards as well. He described being recognized by state officials as mind-blowing.

“When you’re in baseball you get to be around other good players and famous coaches but when you’re around people that make the state and world go around it’s a little mind-blowing. When you have senators not only on your field but commending you for what you did, I think it brings a greater awareness to just how important this university is to the state of Tennessee.”

Vitello wrapped up their fall season this week, previewing different position groups and the progress the team has made. As for this season, the 2022 campaign will begin with a home weekend series on Feb. 18 against Georgia Southern.

Vols blessed with solid arms in pitching staff

Vitello also recognized there’s no shortage of competition on this roster, as he believes there are five guys vying for weekend starter spots at pitching. That includes freshman Chase Burns who decided to enroll at UT, delaying his pro career.

“I think five with Burns, Sewell, Dolander, Tidwell and Halvorsen. I think you look at early in the year with nonconference so you got four games a week there’s probably a couple of others on the outside looking in they have plenty of time between now and then if they feel their names should be in that group to get after it before SEC play.”

Another name to watch on the mound, Farragut alum Ben Joyce, who missed last season due to surgery. Vitello said he’s seen him throw 100 mph heaters this fall.

(Rep. Jason Zachary)

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