ESPN announcer apologizes for comment about Vols’ catcher

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An ESPN announcer apologized Saturday for erroneously saying on air that Tennessee catcher Evan Russell had failed a test for performance enhancing drugs and would be suspended the rest of the season.

Troy Eklund apologized for his comments during the telecast of the afternoon game between Missouri State and Grand Canyon in Stillwater, Oklahoma. An ESPN spokeswoman said the network would have no further comment.

Russell missed the Volunteers’ 10-0 win over Alabama State in the NCAA regional in Knoxville on Friday. Coach Tony Vitello said after the game that Russell was sick.

During a game telecast on Friday night, Eklund said Russell had failed a drug test. He did not cite a source for his information.

“It was pretty crazy, failed a drug test so Evan Russell is suspended for the rest of the season,” Eklund said on air. “So Tennessee is going to have the whole rest of the team tested tomorrow, or the NCAA is. So it’s going to be interesting to see if that’s just a one-player thing or if that is going to be throughout that entire program. Performance-enhancing drugs is what it was said.”

Charlie Taylor started his second straight game in Russell’s place against Campbell. Russell took over behind the plate to start the eighth inning.

Russell used the extra season of eligibility granted by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is in his fifth year in the program. Russell is having the best season of his career, batting .299 with 13 homers, 16 doubles and 43 RBIs.

The Volunteers (54-7) are the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.

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