Tennessee Baseball Reliever Signs With Tampa Bay

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Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee relief pitcher Sean Hunley signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Mt. Juliet native announced on Instagram Wednesday.

The Rays selected Hunley in the 19th round of last week’s MLB Draft, with the 581st pick.

Hunley was simply fantastic in his Tennessee career, earning freshman All-American honors in 2018 as the Vols’ midweek starter. Hunley was a mainstay in Tennessee’s bullpen the next three seasons. The tall right hander posted a 2.60 ERA as a long reliever in 2019 and a 0.54 ERA in the shortened 2020 season.

In 2021, Hunley became more of an end of game threat and led the Vols with nine saves. Hunley was far more than a closer though, the instate pitcher posted a 3.36 ERA in a whopping 72.1 innings pitched.

Tennessee coach Tony Vitello and teammates frequently praised Hunley’s calm and steady nature. It regularly showed up as Hunley delivered for Tennessee in the biggest moments.

Whether it was stranding the tying runner on second base with three straight outs to beat South Carolina, a win that proved to be the difference in UT winning the SEC East, pitching two scoreless innings at Florida in 2019 to earn a massive win or finishing off LSU in the hotly contested game one of the Knoxville Super Regional, Hunley got the job done.

The 6-foot-4, 220 pound reliever doesn’t have spectacular stuff, but a moving high-80s two-seam fastball and a slider he could pinpoint for strikes made Hunley incredibly efficient.

Sean won’t be the last Hunley Vol fans know. His younger brother, Austin, is committed to Tennessee in the 2022 signing class.

Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.