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Tony Vitello suspended for four games

He’ll miss two games this weekend against Florida.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The SEC came down hard on Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello this weekend, suspending him for the next four games following contact with an umpire on Saturday. That umpire, Jeffrey Macias, has a bit of a history with Vitello, dating back to last season.

This was brewing for a while, and Friday night’s game made things worse. Both sides were frustrated with the strike zone of Macias, who was behind home plate on Friday night, and it certainly seemed like Vitello came into Saturday’s game ready to make a statement.

He certainly did that, getting tossed and then making contact with Macias afterwards.

Coincidently, Tennessee was on a two-game losing streak, perhaps needing a spark. Following Vitello’s ejection, Tennessee went on to win 9-2. They won 15-4 on Sunday afternoon, saving the series win in convincing fashion.

Josh Elander, Tennessee’s third base coach and offensive coordinator, filled Vitello’s shoes on Saturday and Sunday. He’ll stay in that role for the next three games — one against Bellarmine and two against Florida in Gainesville. Vitello will return on Sunday for the series finale against the Gators.

“You know, honestly, this is the first time I’ve heard it,” Elander said after Sunday’s game. “I didn’t even know. Obviously, it’s not good. I mean, I think he’s one of the best coaches in college baseball. But he’ll find a way. Some way, somehow he’ll have our guys prepared.

“He’ll put us in a position to win, without a doubt.”

Tennessee is now 33-3 overall and 14-1 in conference play. They’ll put their perfect 6-0 road record on the line this coming weekend, playing without their head coach for two games.