Tennessee Catcher Unavailable For NCAA Tournament Opener

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Tennessee catcher Evan Russell will be unavailable for the Vols’ NCAA Tournament opener Friday night against Alabama State, a UT spokesperson told RockyTopInsider Friday afternoon.

No further details were provided about Russell’s absence, though Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello will comment on the situation following the Vols’ NCAA Tournament opener.

Backup catcher Charlie Taylor is set to start in Russell’s place. Tennessee utility man Jared Dickey is the only other player to catch an inning this season, but the redshirt-sophomore has been hitting only due to a bone bruise on his right foot.

Freshman Ryan Miller and Nathan Smith are not on Tennessee’s active roster this weekend.

Russell transitioned from left field to catcher ahead of his super-senior season at Tennessee and has been reliable behind the play while posting his best season at the plate. The Lexington, Tennessee native enters NCAA Tournament play hitting .299 with 13 home runs, 16 doubles and 43 RBI.

The batting average and doubles are career highs while the homers fall one short of his 2021 mark and the RBI equal his career-high 2021 mark.

Russell sits at 43 home runs in his five-year Volunteer career and is one home run shy of breaking Todd Helton’s Tennessee program record.

“It was a pretty surreal moment,” Russell said after tying the record against Mississippi State. “I figured it was coming and the more we play the better chances I have of breaking it. Rounding the bases, it was almost just a wild feeling because I never would have thought it would have happened whenever I first started on campus. To be able to do something that took a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication means a lot to me.”

First pitch between Tennessee and Alabama State is at 6 p.m. ET. The SEC Network will broadcast the game. The winner advances to the winner’s bracket to face third-seed Campbell at 7 p.m. ET Saturday while the loser will face Georgia Tech at noon ET.

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.