PULLMAN, Wash. (NCBWA) After leading the Volunteers to the NCAA College World Series, Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello has been named the 2021 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Mike Martin National Coach of the Year.
Vitello led his Tennessee club to Omaha for the first time since 2005, while reaching the 50-win mark for the first time since 1995.
The Volunteers earned a No. 3 national seed, hosted an NCAA Regional for the first time since 2005 and swept their regional with a 9-8 win over Wright State in the opener before capping the perfect weekend with a pair of wins over Liberty, 9-3 and 3-1, to earn a spot in the Super Regionals for the first time since 2005. Tennessee stayed hot with a Super Regional sweep over No. 14 LSU, taking the opener 4-2 before erupting for a 15-6 clinching win behind a program-best NCAA Super Regional single-game record for runs and an NCAA Tournament mark for home runs (6) to earn its fifth trip to the College World Series.
"When I heard about it," Martin said with a smile, "I was simply flabbergasted. It is such an honor to have my name associated with this award, and it is a tribute to all the players and coaches who worked with me at Florida State."
"It is very fitting that Tony Vitello won the inaugural NCBWA Coach of the Year Award named in honor of Hall of Fame member Mike Martin," said NCBWA executive director Bo Carter. "Coach Vitello put together possibly the best season in Tennessee baseball history and is very deserving of this top honor. He follows a long list of illustrious NCBWA Coaches of the Year."
Vitello, in his fourth season in Knoxville, has guided the Volunteers to a 50-16 record including a 20-10 mark in SEC play this year. Tennessee won eight of its 10 conference series and made an impressive run in the SEC Tournament with wins over No. 3 Mississippi State, Alabama and No. 13 Florida before falling to top-ranked Arkansas in the championship game.
Under Vitello this season, three Volunteers have earned All-America honors, five have received ABCA All-Region honors and three have earned All-SEC accolades. Starting pitcher Chad Dallas was named to the NCBWA All-America Third Team, reliever Sean Hunley earned All-America second-team honors from Baseball America and third baseman Jake Rucker was named to the All-America Third Team by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.
About the Mike Martin National Coach of the Year Award
The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Coach of the Year Award, introduced in 2008, is voted on by the NCBWA Board of Directors, and chosen from a list that includes all Division I conference coaches of the year and the coaches of the eight NCAA College World Series teams.
In 2020, the NCBWA board of directors voted unanimously to name the annual award after Mike Martin, the winningest head coach in NCAA Division I baseball history after he retired at Florida State in 2019 with a 2,029-736-4 mark over 40 seasons in leading the FSU program from 1980-2019.
"When I heard about it," he said with a smile, "I was simply flabbergasted. It is such an honor to have my name associated with this award, and it is a tribute to all the players and coaches who worked with me at Florida State." "We could not think of any other coach historically to associate a name for this annual award besides coach Mike Martin," said NCBWA executive director Bo Carter. "He has meant so much to college baseball as it has continued year-by-year to gain additional national popularity."
NCBWA membership includes writers, broadcasters and publicists. Designed to promote and publicize college baseball, it is the sport's only college media-related organization, founded in 1962.
For more information on the NCBWA and its award programs, contact NCBWA Assistant Executive Director Mike Montoro of West Virginia University at 304-293-2821.
• All-time NCBWA Coaches of the Year