Tennessee catcher Ethan Bennett and pitcher Blake Thomas will not return to the baseball program for their senior seasons, the school said on Monday.
Bennett, a three-year starter for the Vols, hit .321 in 32 games this year. The Farragut High grad had an on-base percentage of .450 and slugged .605. He leaves with 14 career home runs.
This was Bennett’s best season at the plate. He improved his batting average from .188 as a sophomore to .321 as a junior. Some days when he wasn’t catching, he stayed in the lineup as DH.
Bennett’s at-bats, however, declined from 112 as a sophomore to 81, in part due to the arrival of freshman catcher David Houser, who started 30 games.
“My heart just wasn’t in it anymore,” Bennett said in an interview with The Sports Animal radio station. “Baseball at this level requires a lot of time and energy. Your heart has to be 100 percent in it. It was a very hard decision for me, but I believe that there is a whole different world outside of baseball.”
Thomas, a Milledgeville, Ga., native, was 2-1 with a 7.23 ERA in his only season on the mound. He walked five and struck out seven in 18 2/3 innings.
Thomas, who began his career at Gordon College, redshirted in 2012 after suffering an early-season knee injury.
The Vols announced the move in a tweet that said the two players planned to retire from baseball and focus on other pursuits. Bennett is an accomplished musician who received the Ambrister Athletic Scholarship at UT, according to his bio.
In other news, Tennessee junior Dalton Saberhagen was named to the 2013 SEC Baseball Community Service team.
UT said Saberhagen was a team leader in community service, helping the baseball team win the Big Orange Cup at the 2013 Volscars awards ceremony. He most recently joined teammates in hosting a clinic for the Knoxville Challenger League, which helps children with special needs play their favorite sports.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee athletics. Follow him at www.twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.