Griffin Merritt won’t make his debut for Tennessee baseball until Sunday.
The Vols’ transfer outfielder is unavailable for the first two games of the 2023 season due to a suspension stemming from his final game at Cincinnati, a UT spokesperson told Knox News. Merritt received a postgame ejection because of comments made about umpiring following UC’s season-ending loss to Tulane on May 27, 2022.
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The No. 2 Vols open the season Friday against Arizona in Scottsdale, Arizona. They face Grand Canyon on Saturday. Merritt will be available to play against UC San Diego on Sunday.
Vols pitching coach Frank Anderson also is serving a suspension Friday, the final game of a three-game punishment after he was tossed against Notre Dame on June 10 in the Knoxville Super Regional.
Merritt was ranked the No. 11 transfer in the nation by Baseball America. UT had three of the top 20. Shortstop Maui Ahuna was ranked No. 4 and third baseman Zane Denton was ranked No. 19.
Merritt was the American Athletic Conference player of the year in 2022. The Cincinnati outfielder hit .315 with 19 homers and a team-leading 53 RBI. He had 17 doubles and 139 total bases with an on-base percentage of .382. Merritt was a key addition for the Vols as a big right-handed bat in a lineup largely dominated by left-handed hitters.
Vols coach Tony Vitello has repeatedly said UT likely will start three different outfield lineups during the MLB Desert Invitational. UT returns outfielders Kyle Booker, Jared Dickey and Christian Scott; the Vols also added highly regarded freshman outfielders Reese Chapman and Dylan Dreiling. Vitello has lauded both for their potential and expects them to contribute early in their careers.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.