Tennessee baseball’s historic 2021 season came to a close just two weeks ago, but 20 Vols are playing in summer baseball leagues across the country.
Tony Vitello’s team could look a lot different next spring and summer league play could be greatly beneficial for a plethora of Vols looking to make the jump from backup to potential starter.
Three current Vols and a future Vol are playing in the Cape Cod League— the most lucrative collegiate summer league. Sophomore right handed pitcher Mark McLaughlin is pitching for the Orleans Firebirds while Tennessee’s RBI leaders Jordan Beck and Drew Gilbert are— and will in Gilbert’s case— playing for the Harwich Mariners.
Beck is currently 3-for-13 at the plate with a RBI three games into his season.
Gilbert has yet to join the Mariners as he’s playing with the USA Baseball Collegiate Team in scrimmages this month. Gilbert wasn’t the only Vol on the team as Freshman All American pitcher Blade Tidwell also earned the honor.
One of Tennessee’s top recruits in the 2021 class— junior college infielder Seth Stephenson— is also participating in the Cape Cod League playing for the Chatham Anglers.
Stephenson hit .393 with nine home runs, 47 RBIs and 31 stolen bases this past season at Temple College.
Three Vols and one 2021 signee are playing in the Coastal Plain League which stretches from Georgia to Virginia. Sophomore pitcher Kirby Connell, freshman pitcher Shawn Scott and incoming freshman catcher Ryan Miller are all playing for the Forest City Owls. Sophomore infielder Logan Steenstra is playing for the Peninsula Pilots.
Freshmen Charlie Taylor and Kyle Booker are both playing their summer ball for the Orange County Riptide. The duo are two to watch entering the offseason as Booker impressed with his bat and glove out of the dugout last season hitting .310 in 58 at-bats. Taylor didn’t play as a freshman but with Jackson Greer out of eligibility and Connor Pavolony likely bound to turn professional, Taylor could be in the thick of the starting catcher competition.
Sophomore pitcher Christian Delashmit joins Taylor and Booker in the California Collegiate League, playing for the Santa Barbara Foresters.
Trey Lipscomb and Christian Scott are two other 2021 backups who will compete for extended roles next season and are playing their summer league baseball together for the Johnson Mill Rats in the wooden bat Prospects League. Freshman pitcher Drew Patterson— who did not record an inning pitched in 2021— is also in the league playing for the Alton River Dragons.
Reserve freshmen pitchers Hollis Fanning and Jared Dickey are playing for the Charlotte Mustangs in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League while fellow freshman pitcher Zander Sechrist is playing for the Gainesville Braves in the Sunbelt Baseball League.
Sophomore infielder Cortland Lawson and freshman LHP Jake Fizgibbons are playing for the Hays Larks in the Jayhawk Collegiate League.
Vols not playing in summer leagues include all of Tennessee’s draft eligible juniors— Max Ferguson, Liam Spence, Jake Rucker, Connor Pavolony, Chad Dallas and Camden Sewell.
None of Tennessee’s seniors who are able to return for an extra season due to NCAA COVID-19 eligibility— Sean Hunley, Redmond Walsh, Jackson Leath, Luc Lipcius and Evan Russell— are participating in summer leagues.
Where those players get drafted, particularly the seniors, will be worth watching in next week’s MLB Draft as they decide whether to utilize their extra season of eligibility.
Players not playing in summer leagues who have remaining eligibility and are unlikely to be drafted include Elijah Pleasants, Jason Rackers and Jorel Ortega— though Ortega is likely to join a team, a Tennessee spokesperson told Rocky Top Insider.