Tony Vitello said he received a message from Evan Russell on Friday morning,
The Tennessee baseball catcher said he was ill, which left him unavailable for Tennessee baseball’s 10-0 win over Alabama State on Friday. Vitello does not know if Russell will be available for the Vols on Saturday.
“We’ll give him some time to figure out what’s going on because I have to meet (Doctor Chris) Klenck,” Vitello said. “I will always defer to these people.”
Russell started 50 games for Tennessee this season, batting .299 with 13 home runs. Redshirt freshman Charlie Taylor started in place of Russell. Taylor went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and an RBI on a sacrificial bunt on a tight play.
“Thank you for everyone’s concern today. Life is more than baseball. But letting everyone know that Evan is okay. Thanks for the prayers!!!” Jason wrote Russell, Russell’s father, on Facebook.
Taylor would likely be Tennessee’s No. 1 starter (54-7) against No. 3 seed Campbell (41-17) on Saturday (7 p.m. ET) in the regional semifinals if Russell remains unavailable. He said he hadn’t started consecutive games at catcher since high school.
Redshirt freshman Jared Dickey is an emergency catcher option.
“He couldn’t be here today so I wouldn’t think of a quick turnaround,” Vitello said of Russell.
Vitello said Russell was not on COVID-19 protocols.
Russell has 38 career home runs, tied with Todd Helton for the Tennessee program record. The Lexington, Tennessee, native played 228 games in Vol, one shy of Pete Derkay’s program record.
Russell spent the majority of his first four seasons at Tennessee playing left field. He moved to catcher ahead of the 2022 season after Connor Pavolony was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and the Vols had a vacancy behind the plate.
Taylor was his replacement throughout the season. He started 10 games and played 19 games on Friday.
“There was no conversation with Chuck,” Vitello said. “There doesn’t have to be one. »
Taylor struck twice and flew to the deep center. He executed a safety squeeze in the sixth, reducing the first base line to score Blake Burke from the third.
Vitello came out of the dugout to congratulate Taylor as he returned to the dugout.
“It opened up an opportunity for Charlie and our guys to rally around each other because it’s clearly a big chunk out there,” Vitello said.
Tennessee fans gave Taylor a standing ovation before each of his shots, but the biggest followed his RBI sacrifice.
“It was pretty awesome,” Taylor said. “Honestly, I was a little nervous, but the way Blade (Tidwell) threw the ball and the way Vol Nation kind of rallied around me, I’ll probably never forget that. It was a pretty cool moment for me.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will give you access to it all.