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Another day, another highlight reel catch in center for Tennessee in Omaha

On3 imageby:Eric Cain06/20/24


OMAHA, Neb. – It wasn’t the exact same spot on the field. Heck, it wasn’t even the same player. But for the second-straight Tennessee game on the Greatest Show on Dirt this week in Omaha, a Volunteer centerfielder had no regard for his body when making a highlight reel catch.

Kavares Tears got the honor on Wednesday afternoon as the catch was the third out of the first inning of Tennessee’s 7-2 win over Florida State, a victory that secured a spot in the College World Series Finals for the fist time since 1951.

With a runner at first base and two outs, Marco Dinges sent a drive to right centerfield. Tears, who is not the everyday centerfield for the Vols, had a beat on it and kept on running. The redshirt-sophomore made a small leap at the last second, made the catch and then kicked his feet out and made contact with the wall.

It was a thing of beauty.

“I kind of knew it was blowing out to right-center. I knew I was going to have to get on my horse,” Tears recalled. “I just wanted to catch the ball. That was the only thing I was thinking of. Right before I caught it, I heard a few fans screaming ‘get up, get up.’ So, I was like I think I need to jump. Tried to jump into it gracefully. I held on to the ball.”

The Lewisburg, Tenn. native is normally in right field for the Volunteers. He was asked to slide over to centerfield for Wednesday’s game against the Seminoles in place of Hunter Ensley who was serving as the club’s designated hitter while recovering from his own tangle with the outfield wall. 

“Yeah, he said it wasn’t as cool as mine,” Tears recalled Ensley’s joke moments after in the dugout. “He has a point, but I’m competitive, so I argued with him for a little bit.”

Ensley, of course, made national headlines sprinting into the left-centerfield wall after making a catch during Sunday’s win over North Carolina. He remained in the ballgame for a few more innings but was then lifted to begin the fifth as the Volunteers had a three-run lead.

“I’m feeling fine. Still dealing a little bit with a lower-body injury, but the two days off should help a lot,” Ensley told the media after Wednesday’s game. “It doesn’t bother me too much hitting, but getting out of the box maybe a little bit. I expect in three days from now – I don’t know what time we are playing – but I expect to be full-go.”

Not only have Ensley and Tears made daring catches for Tennessee pitcher in Omaha, but Dyaln Dreiling made a nice recovery on a fly ball to the wall in left field on Wednesday as well, making the catch before lightly backing into the wall. The contact wasn’t as hard as the other two, but it was still another web gem of a play in the outfield.  

“I think his is just as cool because he is not out there in centerfield every day,” catcher Cal Stark said of Tears’ catch compared to Ensley’s. “For him to be able to make that play, I think it was the first inning, that sets the tone for the day. Big game-changing play right there. That could have spiraled out of control there a little bit if you don’t make that play. So, for him to make the play, it’s massive.”

Tony Vitello, as everyone else, was impressed with the first inning play. Though the catch was made in the ballgame when everyone was watching, it comes as no surprise to the skipper who has seen him do it countless times during practice.

“K.T.’s catch was incredible,” the coach beamed. “I grew up watching Willie McGee, and he was so good defensively. But if you went to BP it all started there. He treated BP like a game. That’s how K.T. is. And he can play any of three spots as well as anybody I feel in our conference, at least what I know well, maybe even the country.”

For Tennessee to be the final team standing when the College World Series Finals starts with Texas A&M this weekend, maybe another highlight reel play (or two) will be needed in centerfield once more.

Vols fans should rest assured that whoever is patrolling the area is more than capable of getting it done.

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