Tennessee's top-ranked baseball team will begin the second half of its Southeastern Conference schedule Friday night when the Volunteers visit Florida.
Fifth-year Vols coach Tony Vitello will begin the second half of his suspension.
Friday's matchup in Gainesville represents the third of four games Vitello is having to sit out after intentionally bumping into third-base umpire Jeffrey Macias during the first inning of last Saturday's game versus Alabama inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Tennessee won that contest 9-2 and prevailed 15-4 in Sunday's finale, which served as the first game of Vitello's suspension.
The second took place Tuesday, when the Vols dumped visiting Bellarmine 9-3, and Vitello will miss the first two matchups of the Florida series before returning Sunday.
"It ain't fun. It's so different," Vitello said Thursday during his first news conference since the incident. "The penalty is what it is and probably deserving, but it's a challenge for sure."
The four-game suspension for contact with an umpire is automatic per NCAA rules.
Vitello had just been ejected from last Saturday's game by Macias before bumping him, and his ejection followed Vols pitching coach Frank Anderson getting tossed seconds earlier, which transpired after Tennessee starting pitcher Chase Dollander was pegged in the right arm by a ball hit back to the mound. Anderson missed Sunday's game but returned for the Bellarmine contest.
"I believe we had it accurate that they were relaying pitches, and there is nothing in the rule book that says it's illegal to do that," Vitello said. "It's up to us to make sure that we're not tipping signs or the catcher's hand is out to where people can see that. Frank was just defending his pitcher, and then you had the weird combination of things where Do is down on the ground in a lot of pain.
"Frank was letting off some steam in an emotional moment, and I'm always going to defend Frank in that situation."
Vitello is not allowed to be in the stadium under the suspension. He was able to watch the games Sunday and Tuesday on his computer through a live feed, but SEC Network+ may be his best viewing option in Gainesville until Sunday.
"You're a minute behind when you do that, and that will drive you crazy," Vitello said.
While the Vols continue to sparkle with a 34-3 record and 14-1 SEC mark, the Gators are 23-14 overall and 6-9 in league play. Florida fell from the top 25 this week after losing two of three at Vanderbilt.
The Gators have dominated the Vols through the years, which is reflected by a 154-90 series advantage, but Tennessee is 6-4 against Florida under Vitello. The Vols will start freshman Chase Burns on Friday and freshman Drew Beam on Sunday but have yet to reveal Saturday's starter in Dollander's temporary absence.
Burns has failed to work into the fourth inning in each of his past two starts against Missouri and Alabama, sustaining his first college loss against the Crimson Tide.
"The bottom line is that we had a really good road trip (to Ole Miss and Vandy), and he came back home and — probably like some others on our team — thinks he's invincible," Vitello said. "That ain't ever going to be the case. You can be Michael Jordan, and you're not invincible."