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Tony Vitello, Hunter Ensley Update Centerfielder’s Status Following Win Over North Carolina

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

OMAHA, Neb. — Tennessee’s Hunter Ensley made the play of the night, making a running catch into the wall, in the Vols’ 6-1 win over North Carolina at the College World Series on Sunday night

But the jubilation and excitement around Ensley’s spectacular catch was slightly diminished when he exited the game three innings later due to an injury that he suffered on the play.

Ensley called it “a minor injury to the lower half” while head coach Tony Vitello said he “thinks” it was a hip injury.

“Kind of busted my leg on the wall a little bit. I feel good,” Ensley said postgame. “Right now, getting recovered. Going to meet with a trainer later. Get recovered up and be back for Wednesday.”

Ensley expressed optimism that he will be available when Tennessee faces either Florida State or North Carolina on Wednesday afternoon but that certainly isn’t a guarantee. Having two days off is a real benefit for Ensley’s ability to recover, and if Tennessee wins on Wednesday then they’ll have another two days off before opening up the College World Series finals on Saturday night.

“Two days off is really going help,” Ensley said. “That’s a big time win for that reason only, not only that reason, but it for sure helps.”

More From RTI: Everything Tennessee HC Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Defeated North Carolina

The game was knotted up at 0-0 when the play happened in the second inning. Ensley stayed in the game afterwards, playing defense for two more half innings while batting twice. But once a Kavares Tears’ three-run homer gave Tennessee the lead in the fourth inning, the Vols replaced Ensley with Colby Backus.

“But you could see he wasn’t moving around his best,” Vitello said. “In the back of my mind, I thought, as soon as we got a lead we can’t afford with the way Drew was throwing the ball to not get to a fly ball, which ironically is what got us into that spot.”

“The range of motion just wasn’t there then,” Ensley said. “I talked to Coach Vitello. He said we really can’t afford me not being able to go run down baseballs out there. I put all my support and gave Backus all the knowledge I had.”

Ensley’s catch sat the tone for a strong pitching and defense night for Tennessee in its 6-1 win over the Tar Heels. The redshirt junior’s fearlessness at the wall is what helped win him the centerfield job last season, and despite exiting the game, he wouldn’t trade it.

“I’m willing to run into a wall for an out. I’ll take that trade any day,” Ensley said. “I braced myself for the wall. I felt like I kind of made the hit so it didn’t hurt as bad.”

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