KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The 2020 baseball season is right around the corner and leading up to Opening Day, UTSports.com will preview each position group for this year’s team.
Next up are Tennessee’s outfielders.
The Volunteers will have to replace starters Jay Charleston and Justin Ammons, who both are now in the professional ranks. Charleston was chosen by the Kansas City Royals in the 26th round of the 2019 MLB Draft after leading the SEC and finishing sixth nationally with 41 stolen bases last season. He also racked up 51 hits and scored 44 runs for the Big Orange in 2019.
Ammons signed with the Toronto Blue Jays after playing in 162 games and making 156 starts during his three years at UT. The Memphis native scored 105 runs, totaled 158 hits, drove in 56 runs and stole 31 bases during his collegiate career with the Vols.
Despite losing Charleston and Ammons, Tennessee returns four players who saw action in the outfield last season, including 2019 first-team All-SEC selection Alerick Soularie as well as 2019 Google Cloud Academic All-American Evan Russell.
The Big Orange also added five newcomers who could make an immediate impact this season. Learn more about all of UT’s outfielders below.
Returners (Listed Numerically)
#1 Alerick Soularie – Junior – 6-0 / 175 – Houston, Texas
Career Stats (1 Season): 60 GP, 54 GS, .357 AVG, 196 AB, 52 R, 70 H, 13 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 46 RBI, .602 SLG, 37 BB, 39 K, .466 OBP, 8 SB, 4 A, 3 E, .975 FLD%
Soularie burst onto the scene last year in his first season with the Vols after spending his freshman year at San Jacinto College. The Houston native led the Vols in batting average (.357), slugging percentage (.602), on-base percentage (.466) and runs scored (52) while ranking second on the team in hits (70), home runs (11), runs batted in (46) and total bases (118).
Soularie earned numerous postseason honors in 2019, including first-team All-SEC recognition after finishing the year ranked in the top five in the SEC in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. He was also named a third-team All-American by D1Basaeball.com and an All-America Honorable Mention by Perfect Game. Following his breakout sophomore season, Soularie has received numerous accolades heading into the 2020 campaign, including preseason All-America honors from Baseball American, D1Baseball.com and Perfect Game.
#5 Zach Daniels – Junior – 6-1 / 210 – Stockbridge, Ga.
Career Stats (2 Seasons): 66 GP, 38 GS, .176 AVG, 153 AB, 29 R, 27 H, 3 2B, 9 HR, 26 RBI, .373 SLG, 29 BB, 69 K, .311 OBP, 3 SB, 1 A, 5 E, .923 FLD%
Daniels returns for his junior season and will compete for playing time in a crowded outfield with lots of competition. The Georgia native has elite power but will look to develop into a more consistent and well-rounded hitter this season. Daniels has showcased his tantalizing power on numerous occasions during his first two seasons with nine home runs (five in 2018 and four in 2019). In limited playing time last season, Daniels batted .200 with 12 hits, 11 runs, four homers and 10 RBI. If Daniels is able to cut down on his strikeouts, he has the ability to be one of the better power hitters in the SEC.
#6 Evan Russell – Junior – 5-11 / 192 – Lexington, Tenn.
Career Stats (2 Seasons): 97 GP, 85 GS, .268 AVG, 295 AB, 49 R, 79 H, 13 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 62 RBI, .417 SLG, 46 BB, 68 K, .372 OBP, 6 SB, 4 A, 5 E, .934 FLD%
The Vols will rely heavily on Russell’s experience and leadership this season. The Lexington, Tennessee native, has played in 97 games and made 85 starts over his first two years with the program, making him one of the team’s most seasoned players. The junior has been one of UT’s most consistent hitters over the past two seasons. Russell started 50 games as an outfielder and designated hitter last season and set career highs in batting average (.274), runs (30), hits (46), home runs (six), RBI (39), walks (30), slugging percentage (.446) and on-base percentage (.382).
Russell is a two-time SEC Spring Academic Honor Roll recipient and was named to the Google Cloud Academic All-America Third Team as a sophomore in 2019.
#8 Christian Scott – Sophomore – 5-9 / 171 – Clarksville, Tenn.
Career Stats (1 Season): 21 GP, 7 GS, .321 AVG, 28 AB, 5 R, 9 H, 3 2B, 1 RBI, .429 SLG, 9 BB, 8 K, .486 OBP, 1 SB, 0 A, 0 E, 1.000 FLD%
Scott put up solid numbers during his limited playing time as a freshman in 2019. The Clarksville, Tennessee native, had a memorable debut in the Orange and White, going 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a stolen base against Northern Kentucky. Scott also went 2-for-2 in a loss at Arkansas on April 27 after entering the game as a reserve. The sophomore has good range in the outfield and will be one of a handful of talented players competing for playing time in the Vols’ outfield this season.
Newcomers (Listed Numerically)
#9 Matt Turino – Junior – 5-10 / 170 – Toronto, Ontario
Turino comes to Rocky Top from Jefferson College in Jefferson City, Missouri, where had a decorated junior college career with the Vikings. A native of Toronto, Ontario, Turino helped Jefferson College reach the NJCAA Division I College World Series as a freshman in 2018 after batting .354 with 81 hits and a team-high 18 stolen bases while also belting seven home runs and racking up 29 extra-base hits and 70 RBI.
Turino earned NJCAA Third Team All-America honors in 2019 and was an NJCAA Gold Glove winner and second-team All-Region performer as a freshman. He led the Vikings with a .356 batting average, 74 hits, 21 doubles and 30 stolen bases as a sophomore. Turino also scored 64 runs, blasted four homers and has 50 RBI while slugging .563 and posting a .477 on-base percentage in 2019, all numbers that ranked top-three on the team.
#12 Drew Gilbert – Freshman – 5-9 / 170 – Stillwater, Minn.
A two-way player who will also be used as a pitcher this season, Gilbert was one of the highest rated recruits in the 2019 signing class after a standout prep career at Stillwater High School. The Minnesota native was selected in the 35th round by the Minnesota Twins in the 2019 MLB Draft. Gilbert was a two-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American as well as a Gatorade Player of the Year finalist in 2018.
In 2018, Gilbert earned All-State honors after leading Stillwater High to the Class 4A State Championship, where he threw a complete-game shutout in the title game, scattering three hits in seven innings while striking out 15 batters. Gilbert was also an excellent hitter and outfielder during his prep career and will be a two-way player while at Tennessee.
#27 Jordan Beck – Freshman – 6-3 / 205 – Hazel Green, Ala.
Beck has the ability to make an immediate impact as a true freshman for Tennessee this season. The Alabama native was a two-sport star at Hazel Green High School, where he was also an all-state basketball player. Beck was a 14th round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox and was the No. 1 rated outfielder in the state of Alabama by Perfect Game.
A two-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American and three-time Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State selection, Beck led the Trojans to their first-ever state championship in baseball as a junior in 2018 and also led the basketball team to the state semifinals that same year. Beck was named the 2019 Alabama Class 6A Hitter of the Year, 2019 Super 10 Player of the Year and earned a spot on the ASWA Super All-State Team as a senior after batting .500 with 60 runs scored, 16 doubles, 13 homers and 52 RBI.
#38 Ethan Anderson – Freshman – 6-2 / 180 – Woodstock, Ga.
Anderson starred at River Ridge High School in Woodstock, Georgia. He was a four-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American and was No. 188 rated player in the country according to Perfect Game. He was a two-time Georgia Class 6A All-State selection and won the Silver Slugger Award in 2018 after batting .395 with seven home runs and 63 RBI. Anderson is also a talented pitcher and could also see time on the mound for the Vols this season.
#42 Zane Keener – Freshman – 5-10 / 170 – Knoxville, Tenn.
A local product who played his prep baseball for the Christian Academy of Knoxville, Keener was the No. 5 rated outfielder in Tennessee by Perfect Game and was a three-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American. The Knoxville native helped lead CAK to three straight state championships (2017-19) and was a three-time Knoxville News Sentinel All-PrepXtra selection. Despite missing a good portion of his senior season due to injury, Keener still was named a Knoxville News Sentinel All-PrepXtra first-team selection in 2019 after batting .402 with 25 walks and 23 stolen bases while also chipping in on the mound.
Keener was also a Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Division II-A All-State selection as a junior after batting .415 with 44 RBI and 57 runs scored. He also earned back-to-back District MVP honors in 2017 and 2018.