Knoxville- The Tennessee baseball team started their postseason on Friday night by defeating Alabama State 10-0 in the opening game of the NCAA Baseball regionals. It wasn’t the game that garnered attention throughout the night though, as catcher Evan Russell missed the game due to being ‘sick’, according to head coach Tony Vitello.
The baseball program issued a statement before the game, indicating that Russell would not be available and that Vitello would comment on the matter during the postgame press conference.
“Evan Russell is not available for tonight’s game vs. Alabama State. Coach Vitello will address his status in Tennessee’s postgame press conference.”
The uncertainty surrounding the status of Russell caused a tremendous amount of speculation on social media, which is understandable due to the timing of the announcement. Left with no answers for a number of hours until the Vols put away Alabama State, folks had the opportunity to discuss the matter on twitter, including the broadcast of Oklahoma State vs. Missouri State.
The ESPN broadcast crew of Lowell Galindo and Troy Eklund announced that Evan Russell had been suspended for PED’s, according to ‘reports and speculation’ they had seen. Here is video of the exchange.
So, ESPN announcers decided to say Tennessee’s Evan Russell was suspended for PED’s according to “reports and speculation” and that the NCAA would now be testing the whole team.
Where is this report that stated this about Russell? pic.twitter.com/HnsG0GfciZ
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) June 4, 2022
So now we had a national broadcast claiming that Russell had tested positive, according to reports they had seen, while also saying the whole baseball team would be drug tested on Saturday.
Following the game, Tony Vitello met with the media and offered an explanation on why Russell missed the game, which ESPN discussed during the video above, only the ‘sick’ part though.
“We’ll give it some time to figure out what’s going on because I have to get with Dr. (Chris) Klenck, but obviously Evan Russell was not here,” Vitello said. “He was sick this morning. I got a message from him. I’m going to always defer to those folks so don’t think I’m a bad guy if a guy sprains an ankle and I’m not out on the field. I don’t know what to do I’d just get in (trainer Jeff) Woody’s way and same thing with doc.”
The baseball program issued a statement to me on Saturday morning, denying Russell’s absence was related to a failed test of any kind.
“Evan Russell’s absence last night had nothing to do with any violation of team, NCAA, or SEC rules. We have been in contact with ESPN and they are aware of the situation regarding last nights comments made on their broadcast. ESPN is handling the situation and we are expecting a public apology from them later today.”
We will wait to see if ESPN comments on the matter.