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Home > Baseball, Sport, Vanderbilt > Vanderbilt Baseball: Fifteenth Week Behind, Week Ahead

Vanderbilt Baseball: Fifteenth Week Behind, Week Ahead

June 3rd, 2011

The final game of the SEC season pitted the two teams I considered the best at the start of the year. Unfortunately, Florida was better that day. Photo courtesy Mike Rapp of VandySports.com.

Well it was quite the amazing regular season. Vandy ended up as tri-champs of the SEC regular season, but came up just short in Hoover, falling to Florida in the championship game after storming past Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas. Vandy also fell just short of a number 1 ranking, finishing 2nd in the final coaches’ and baseball writers’ polls and third in the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball rankings. The team moves on to the Nashville Regional with a national seed in hand and Oklahoma State, Troy and Belmont coming to the Hawk.

The Immediate Progression – When It Strikes Me is Credentialed?

Indeed, thanks to the help of College Baseball Daily, for whom I will be covering the Nashville Regional, I’ll be carrying a press pass down to the regional this weekend. Look for some posts by me on the mother ship website of NCAA Baseball coverage this weekend. I’ll also have tickets in hand, so I intend to spend some time in the stands this weekend, but with temperatures forecast in the 90s, I’m not to ashamed to shirk the heat and head up to the press box to cover the game alongside VandySports.com’s Chris Lee. It should be a great weekend.

Click through to keep on reading

In other housekeeping news, Vanderbilt picked up its fifth commitment of the 2012/13 recruiting class when Kennesaw, Georgia shortstop Dansby Swanson pulled the trigger recently. Swanson is another in the line of outstanding future Commodore athletes. An athletic player with solid defensive skills and surprising pop, he joins standout pitchers Walker Buehler (Lexington, KY) and Stephen Gant (Jackson, TN), phenomenal outfielder Rhett Wiseman (Mansfield, MA) and monster catcher Chris Harvey (Norristown, PA) as the early commitments in a class that should be around eight to eleven in size, based on the projected roster.

The Week Behind

I’m going somewhat short shrift on this one, as my time was a little limited. The game capsules will be concise and hold just my key thoughts on the games.

Wednesday – Vanderbilt 10, Georgia 0

Vanderbilt pounded and completely outclassed the Bulldogs from the moment Jason Esposito powered a moon shot out to left to put Vanderbilt on top in the second to the Anthony Gomez single that run-ruled Georgia in the 7th. The put Georgia on the brink of elimination from the NCAA tournament (due to the need to have a winning record) and left Dave Perno shaking his head.

The day was not an unmitigated success for the Commodores. While TJ Pecoraro and Kevin Ziomek decimated the Georgia lineup with a one-hitter for seven innings, Pecoraro left the game in the 4th inning pointing to his lower forearm. Worst fears were realized when Pecoraro confirmed by Twitter that it was a UCL tear and that he was heading down to Dr. James Andrews for Tommy John surgery. The outstanding freshman hurler finished his first year with a stellar stat line of 7-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 39.2 innings, striking out 41 and permitting just a .183 batting average against. Pecoraro will likely miss 2012 while recovering from the surgery, but figures to be a big factor in the 2013 weekend rotation.

The Commodores pounded out fourteen hits, led by a 3-5, three run, three RBI day from SEC Freshman of the Year Tony Kemp and a 3-4, two run, two RBI day from Esposito. Pecoraro and Ziomek combined to allow just one hit and four walks against six strikeouts in seven innings. Ziomek got the win to move to 3-0.

Game Recap
Game Highlights (Video)

Jason Esposito will look to recharge a Vanderbilt lineup that went scoreless in its final 13 innings at Hoover. Photo courtesy Mike Rapp of VandySports.com.

Thursday – Vanderbilt 7, South Carolina 2

After Pecoraro and Ziomek kept Vanderbilt in the winner’s bracket, Tim Corbin turned the ball over to the King, Sonny Gray. Gray showed his standard, excellent repertoire of pitches in holding South Carolina to five hits and a walk in 6.1 innings, while striking out seven. Gray left on a pitch count limiting him to 100 pitches in anticipation of the upcoming Nashville Regional. He was relieved by Corey Williams, Will Clinard and Navery Moore, who got the job done by combining for 2.2 innings of two-hit baseball. Moore picked up the save for his tenth of the year, while Gray moved to 10-3 on the season with the win.

Vandy’s offense tallied 14 hits, including two each by Westlake, Esposito, Conrad Gregor and Riley Reynolds. After holding on to a 3-2 lead from the bottom of the fourth to the top of the ninth (Vanderbilt was the road team), the Commodores exploded for four insurance runs. The inning was highlighted by successful squeeze #Vanderbunts by Mike Yastrzemski and Gregor, who each reached first on their respective bunts.

The win gave the Commodores a day off and the opportunity to relax and rest their arms in anticipation of a semi-final matchup against either Arkansas or Alabama.

Game Recap
Game Highlights (Video)

Saturday – Vanderbilt 3, Arkansas 2

It was a less explosive game for the Commodore offense on Saturday, but crisp fielding by Gomez (who accounting for nearly half of the game’s outs while playing spectacular shortstop defense) and another stellar pitching performance from Grayson Garvin helped to ensure that an early, second inning 3-0 lead would hold. Vanderbilt got on the board early in the first with a lead off Kemp walk and steal and a Gomez double to right center. They would add two more on a mammoth Connor Harrell two run shot to left in the second. From thereon out, the Vanderbilt bats were silenced in an amazing, 4.2 inning, no-hit performance from Arkansas reliever Colby Suggs.

Fortunately, the Commodores have an ace staff of their own and after Grayson Garvin (6.1 IP, 9 hits, 2 ER, 3 K, 1 BB) tired in the seventh inning, the Vanderbilt bullpen threw 2.2 perfect innings, highlighted by Clinard striking out both batters he faced in the seventh inning. Moore closed out the game for his eleventh save and helped move Garvin to 12-1 on the year. In doing so, Garvin tied Jeff Peoples and Casey Weathers for the most wins in a season for a Commodore and, more amazingly, set an all-time NCAA record for most wins against SEC opponents in a single season (10).

The win propelled Vanderbilt into the championship game to face a Florida squad that needed two tries on Saturday to get past Georgia.

Game Recap
Game Highlights (Video)

Saturday – Florida 5, Vanderbilt 0

Anthony Gomez was a fielding wizard at Hoover, but he couldn't get to this Gator bunt in time. Photo courtesy Mike Rapp of VandySports.com.

The championship game would not be so kind, as Vanderbilt fell for just the tenth time on the year. The Commodores had opportunities, but it was a game in which it seemed only a handful of Commodores really showed up sharp. First among them was Taylor Hill. The tall righty was truly dominant for most of the evening, using a crisp mid-90s fastball and a wicked low-90s sinker while permitting just two unearned runs in the second inning and manufactured Florida run in the seventh. The wheels fell in the eighth when Clinard and Jack Armstrong were unable to record any outs at all (despite not having anything hit terribly well). Mark Lamm came in to stem the tide which had seen Florida expand their lead to 5-0. With the bases loaded, Lamm induced a routine 3-1 force out at the plate and an inning-ending double play.

The Commodore bats, however, were unable to do anything all day. Despite two hits apiece from each of Gomez, Esposito, Harrell and Reynolds, the Commodores seemed impatient at the plate and were unable to sustain any rallies in being shut out for only the second time of the year. The loss was also the first suffered by Vanderbilt where the margin was greater than three runs.

Hill was the tough luck loser, moving to 4-1, while Alex Panteliodis picked up the big win with 5.1 solid innings for Kevin O’Sullivan’s Gators. Despite the loss, Vanderbilt has appeared in four of the last five SEC Tournament Championship games. Gray, Gregor, Westlake, Reynolds and Esposito were all named to the All-Tournament team while 97,675 fans packed Regents Park for an average of just under 7,000 fans per game.

Game Recap
Game Highlights (Video)

Apologies, Corrections and Indignation

Well, it’s the third time I’ve done so, but another apology goes out to Georgia. I really didn’t think Dave Perno’s squad had it in them to qualify for Hoover, much less the SEC tournament. Facing the toughest schedule in the nation, they turned their season around after the devastating injury to Jonathan Taylor. It turned out Taylor was the inspiration that the Dawgs needed as they finished with the fourth best conference record and responded after looking awful against the Commodores on Wednesday to win three straight games against Auburn, South Carolina and Florida that could have eliminated them from Hoover. Taylor’s visit to the field (where he greeted both the Georgia and Florida squads in a moment memorialized in this video) gave the Dawgs the bump they needed to win 4-3 to go to the NCAA tournament. Seeing Dave Perno hug Taylor in the dugout after the last out was a really great moment for the SEC in 2011.

Tim Corbin knows the time for Omaha is now and most think the team to get there is assembled and ready. Photo courtesy Mike Rapp of VandySports.com.

The correction this week goes out to those who think strategic use of a bunt as Vanderbilt did on Thursday against South Carolina goes against the general belief that #Vanderbunts are bad strategy. We’ve all seen Coach Corbin effectively use the squeeze bunt in late inning situations to plate insurance or go ahead runs (see the walk off, game winner from Connor Harrell in the Louisville Regional last year). That is very different from asking a top flight hitter to sacrifice early in the game, or even late in a game. Squeezes are successful because they truly do put high pressure on opponents and often lead to runners reaching. Furthermore, they are generally used in situations where you actually might want to trade an out for a run. There is a difference and it should further be noted that Coach Corbin did tweak his strategy during the year. We saw markedly fewer bunts in the conference season, at least in part due to the high powered performance of the offense and the aberrant failures of good bunters like Riley Reynolds and Mike Yastrzemski, who struggled to get sacrifices down in league play.

Indignation this week goes out to the NCAA selection committee. One might expect me to harp on receiving the number six national seed (which is strange given the RPI of four in Warren Nolan and five in BoydsWorld and rankings that averaged 2.5 in the four polls released on Monday. But that’s not the beef. The big beef is with the inclusion of St. John’s (35-20, RPI 51 in Warren Nolan) over deserving teams including Louisiana State (36-20, RPI 22) and East Tennessee State (36-21, RPI 37). Quite simply there is no explanation other than the one that smacks you right in the mouth: St. John’s Athletic Director sat on the selection committee. I say boo, good sirs. I say boo.

Weekly Honors

Position Player of the Week

Again, there were plenty of excellent candidates for this honor for the Commodores, but Jason Esposito’s performance really stands out on the week.  In addition to making some fine defensive plays and earning all-tournament team honors, the third baseman was outstanding at the plate with several multi-hit games.  He went 7-16 on the week with four runs and three RBI.

For the opposition, SEC Tournament MVP Daniel Pigott earns the honors.  He went 2-3 against Vanderbilt in the final with a run, RBI and hit by pitch.

Sonny Gray of the Week

The freshman combo of TJ Pecoraro and Kevin Ziomek earns the honors again this week in tandem.  Quite simply, the pair were nothing short of dominant against Georgia.  The loss of TJ Pecoraro will almost certainly impact Vandy’s efforts in the tournament format in the Nashville Regional and, if the Commodores make it there, the opening round in Omaha.

On the opposition side, though Florida’s Alex Panteleodis was stout, Colby Suggs of Arkansas was nothing short of brilliant.

Rankings and Metrics

Baseball America: 3rd (LW: 4th)
ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll: 2nd (LW: 2nd)
NCBWA: 2d (LW: 2nd)
Collegiate Baseball: 3rd (LW: 3rd)
Perfect Game: No Poll (LW: 5th)

Warren Nolan Metrics
Simulated RPI: 4th
Nolan Power Index: 2nd
Strength of Schedule: 28th

Boyd’s World Metrics
Simulated RPI: 5th
Iterative Strength Rating: 1st
Strength of Schedule: 33rd

The Week Ahead

This week’s preview of the Nashville Regional will be cross posted on College Baseball Daily.

The Nashville Regional this year features four all-around, solid teams in National Seed host Vanderbilt, two seed Oklahoma State, three seed Troy and four seed Belmont. We’ll take a quick peek at each team’s strengths and provide some early predictions.

Vanderbilt OKState Troy Belmont
Location Nashville TN Stillwater OK Troy AL Nashville TN
Conference SEC Big12 Sun Belt A-Sun
Record 47-10 33-23 42-17 35-24
Conf Rec 22-8 14-12 21-9 17-13
Road Record 16-5 6-12 10-11 13-11
vs RPI Top 50 22-9 10-13 7-6 8-6
vs RPI Top 100 26-9 17-20 18-12 17-12
Last 10 6-4 3-7 7-3 8-2
WN RPI / SOS 4 / 28 34 / 29 46 / 143 67 / 81
Boyd ISR / SOS 1 / 33 37 / 34 38 / 140 87 / 124
Scoring Offense 6.9 5.8 7.0 6.9
Scoring Defense 2.9 4.4 4.2 5.8
Team Batting .318 .295 .294 .299
Team OPS .854 .804 .829 .843
Team ERA 2.49 3.70 3.73 4.68
Opponent OPS .597 .719 .702 .775
Stolen Bases 74-102 29-41 55-71 82-107
Opp St Bases 37-50 54-75 44-67 53-73
Fielding Pct .974 .975 .975 .962

Vanderbilt Commodores

The Commodores enter their home regional with robust out of conference (22-1) and home (28-4) records and put up a staggering run scoring margin of 254 to 106 against opponents in the top conference in the nation. They were tri-champions of the Southeastern Conference regular season along with #3 Florida and #4 South Carolina and reached the finals of the conference tournament in Hoover, Alabama. They are ranked second in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and the NCBWA polls and third by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.

The Commodores feature a stout, balanced roster that matches up well against any team in the nation, reflected by their consistent ranking in the top five of the Coaches poll all year long. The squad excels in every facet of the game, ranking ninth in the nation in batting (.318), fifth in ERA (2.49) and second only to Virginia in both best record (.825 winning percentage) and highest scoring margin (+4.0).

Grayson Garvin may have been SEC Pitcher of the Year, but Sonny Gray is the heart and soul and ace of the Commodores squad. Photo courtesy Mike Rapp of VandySports.com.

The pitching staff is anchored by a veteran, outstanding starting rotation and a talented bullpen. The rotation is anchored by two Golden Spikes nominees in Sonny Gray and Grayson Garvin. Gray (10-3, 2.12 ERA, 101.2 IP, 112 K, .195 BAA) was Baseball America’s 2010 Summer Pitcher of the Year and a pre-season All-American. Garvin (12-1, 2.35, 95.2, 82, .225) was the 2010 Cape League Pitcher of the Year and the 2011 SEC Pitcher of the Year. They are backstopped by senior right hander Taylor Hill (4-1, 3.00, 84.0, 75, .250), who is projected to be an early round draft pick in his own right. Should Vanderbilt require a fourth starter, they will likely turn to freshman phenom Kevin Ziomek (3-0, 1.65, 43.2, 46, .210), who earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors as a spot starter and reliever.

Out of the pen, the Commodores rely heavily on four arms in particular. Will Clinard (1-2, 2 saves, 3.58 ERA, 27.2 IP, 33 K, .287 BAA) and Corey Williams (1-0, 2, 5.64, 30.1, 28, .237) provide a solid righty-lefty combo for the middle and late innings, though both have struggled a bit down the stretch. Meanwhile, set up man Mark Lamm (5-0, 1, 2.10, 25.2, 19, .250) and closer Navery Moore (4-2, 11, 1.21, 29.2, 25, .170) have both dominated SEC opponents all year. Jack Armstrong (0-1, 0, 2.81, 16, 15, .100) and Sam Selman (0-0, 0, 1.42, 6.1, 6, .208) could also see time on the mound.

The starting lineup for the Commodores is pretty set with SEC Freshman of the Year Tony Kemp (.335, 0 HR, 27 RBI, .852 OPS) leading things off in left field. He is followed by shortstop Anthony Gomez (.341, 0, 39, .757) and All-SEC first baseman Aaron Westlake (.356, 13, 44, 1.093). In the cleanup hole is catcher Curt Casali (.319, 5, 45, .888) and Mike Yastrzemski (.295, 2, 37, .799) mans right field. They are followed in the order by All-SEC third baseman Jason Esposito (.352, 7, 51, .952) and All-SEC designated hitter Conrad Gregor (.336, 3, 27, .897). The bottom of the order is rounded out by center fielder Connor Harrell (.289, 7, 28, .845) and second baseman Riley Reynolds (.329, 0, 17, .756). Top reserves most likely to see playing time include infielder Sam Lind (.239, 1, 14, .706), outfielder Joe Loftus (.227, 0, 7, .643) and infielder Brian Johns (.214, 1, 5, .728).

All told, the lineup presents great balance from top to bottom with decent speed throughout. Vanderbilt features five consistent base stealers in Yastrzemski (21-23), Kemp (15-19), Esposito (14-24), Harrell (7-7) and Gomez (7-9). They also play great defense with a team percentage of .974. Top defenders include Gray and Esposito, who are likely to receive national gold glove honors this year. Gray was the 2010 winner of the gold glove as a pitcher.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys head to Nashville on a bit of a down streak, having lost 14 of their last 21 games, including a 1-2 performance in the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City. They featured a strong start to the year which had them peaking with a 17 ranking in the Coaches Poll in week 10. They finished the season fourth in their conference after a solid 18-9 record against non-conference opponents.

Zach Johnson (12) is one of the two or three best hitters in the regional. Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State.

Much like Vanderbilt, their roster is extremely balanced, with solid all-around play throughout. Their scoring margin of 338-248 reflects early season dominance, but the recent stretch of poor play has been emblematic of a team that may have hit a wall mid season. It starts with the pitching.

The Cowboys feature four pitchers who have seen weekend action as starters. Each has struggled down the stretch, despite generally solid numbers. Mike Strong (5-1, 3.61 ERA, 72.1 IP, 70 K, .241 BAA) is a hard throwing righty and is expected to get the ball on Friday night, followed by Brad Propst (7-5, 3.66, 96, 58, .252), who is more of a finesse pitcher. Sunday will likely feature Randy McCurry (2-4, 2.91, 43.1, 36, .253), a lefty who worked for most of the year out of the pen, with Andrew Heany (7-4, 3.88, 65, 51, .292) as the probable fourth starter. In the last eight games, none of these arms has made it past the fifth inning.

Out of the pen, Oklahoma State has no true closer, but they do have some good arms in Gabe Weidenaar (0-0, 3 saves, 0.43 ERA, 21.0 IP, 18 K, .194 BAA), Jason Hursh (1-1, 0, 2.73, 29.2, 10, .310), Blake Barnes (3-1, 0, 3.48, 44.0, 29, .244), Hunter Herrera (3-1, 0, 3.76, 38.1, 16, .344) and flamethrower Chris Marlow (3-3, 4, 4.43, 40.2, 70, .175). Andrew Heck (3-1, 4.74, 38.0, 25, .273) was a spot starter most of the year, but would be another arm on the staff if needed. All of the above are righties, providing a lack of match up depth for Coach Frank Anderson.

The lineup is stout, though, with left fielder Devin Shines (.276, 4 HR, 27 RBI, .789 OPS) leading things off. He’s followed by utility guy Weidenaar (.288, 2, 22, .731) who plays center and provides late relief out of the pen. First baseman Zach Johnson (.359, 13, 62, 1.068) is as good a bat as in the regional and is followed by second baseman Davis Duren (.293, 3, 25, .737). Next in the lineup are right fielder Luis Uribe (.309, 3, 28, .848) and designated hitter Dane Phillips (.342, 4, 32, .917). Rounding out the lineup are third baseman Mark Ginther (.297, 10, 32, .868), catcher Jared Womack (.286, 8, 45, .812) and shortstop Hunter Baily (.267, 1, 17, .688). Other than with Baily in the nine hole, you’ve got pretty consistently solid power and average. Key reserves include outfielder Nico Rosthenhausler (.254, 0, 7, .564) and pitcher/utility man Randy McCurry (.179, 0, 5, .358).

Top defenders include Baily at short, leading a stellar team fielding average of .975. In fact, Oklahoma State has yielded just 34 unearned runs all year, a fine number. Behind the plate, opponents have run easy on Womack, who has thrown out under twenty percent of base stealers.

Troy Trojans

The Trojans enter the regional on an uptick, having won the Sun Belt conference with a 21-9 league record. They are victors of 7 of their last ten, including wins over Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky in the conference tournament. They peaked mid-season with an appearance in the week nine coaches poll. From a numerical standpoint, it’s clear why with the regional’s most prolific scoring offense and one of the regional’s truly elite pitchers.

Adam Bryant will look to power threw the arms in the Nashville Regional. Photo courtesy of Troy.

That pitcher is the Alpha and Omega of the Troy staff. Scouts love Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year Tanner Ray (11-0, 2.39, 109 IP, 64 K, .237 BAA) and his numbers, if not the strikeout column, speak volumes to his talent. The righty will certainly test Oklahoma State on Friday afternoon. Thereafter, things come back down to earth a bit with a pair of southpaws in power arm Jimmy Hodgskin (3-6, 4.56, 73, 58, .259) and Ryan Sorce (5-4, 5.23, 62, 47, .323). If the Trojans get to a fourth game, they will likely throw lefty Shane McCain (2-2, 52.1, 53, .256).

The bullpen is among the shortest in the regional with only four real key arms, starting with closer Nathan Hill (5-2, 2.42 ERA, 3 saves, 48.1 IP, 61 K, .235 BAA). The next man out of the pen is Tyson Workman (5-3, 4, 2.59, 41.2, 44, .212) but, as Chris Lee noted in his preview of Troy for VandySports.com, Workman threw a whopping 149 pitches in seven relief innings in the regular season finale. Also the Trojans regular right fielder, Workman did close out the Sun Belt tournament finale with a scoreless inning, but one has to wonder about his arm health. Other key arms include Nick Ward (2-0, 0, 3.79, 19, 16, .243), Garrett McHenry (1-0, 2, 23.1, 28, .175) and Shane McCain (2-2, 1, 4.30, 52.1, 53, .256).

The lineup is balanced for Coach Bobby Pierce and starts with utility man Workman (.285, 1 HR, 12 RBI, .733). He’s followed by outstanding third baseman Tyler Hannah (.369, 7, 49, 1.075) and shortstop Adam Bryan (.339, 11, 66, .983), comprising as good a 1-2 power punch as is in the regional. Batting cleanup is second baseman TJ Rivera (.298, 1, 34, .749). Left fielder Boone Shear (.273, 2, 18, .782) and catcher Todd McRae follow (.316, 1, 34, .839), while first baseman Logan Pierce (.238, 4, 43, .732), designated hitter Blake Martz (.235, 7, 40, .770) and center fielder Ali Knowles (.281, 1, 13, .759) round out the regular lineup. Key reserves include Hayden Hillyer (.295, 0, 10, .706), Josh McDorman (.280, 1, 7, 41, .803) and Dan Peterson (.248, 2, 16, .688).

Top defenders include the Alan Trammell – Lou Whitaker like combination of Bryant and Rivera, up the middle. The Trojans have a stellar .975 fielding percentage as a team, continuing the Nashville Regional’s seeming uniformity of solid squads with the glove. McRae has thrown out a respectable 23.5 percent of base stealers on the year.

Belmont Bruins

The Bruins are one of the stronger four seeds in the NCAA tournament and they are riding a high streak at the moment, entering as the Atlantic Sun tournament champions after a somewhat lackluster 36-24 regular season. The squad is the power bunch in the field, matching up well with the Vanderbilt and Troy offenses at nearly seven runs per game; however, unlike the rest of the field, the Bruins pitching staff is pretty much a one-trick pony, with a rough team ERA of 4.68.

Matt Hamann leads the Belmont staff and is the Bruins best chance at a win in Nashville. Photo courtesy of Belmont.

The leader of the staff is a true ace in Matt Hamann (9-1, 2.22 ERA, 81.0 IP, 49 K, .212). He is no newcomer to Hawkins Field, having pitched against Vanderbilt in each of the last three years. Early this year, he threw a scoreless inning (yielding a walk and striking out a batter), while he was hammered in 2010 (3 IP, 8 H, 4 BB, 6 ER) and had a solid performance in 2009 (3 IP, 3 H, BB, ER, 2 K). He will be matched against Vandy ace Gray in the Friday night game, a must win for the Bruins. It is a must win because there’s not a whole lot after Hamann. Southpaw Chase Brookshire (5-4, 3.52, 94.2, 66, .279) is a solid, if unspectacular number two starter and utility guy Nate Woods (6-5, 6.44, 57.1, 34, .298) is perhaps the regions weakest starter. James Buckelew (2-4, 5.46, 62.2, 36, .316) would be the likely fourth man for Coach Dave Jarvis, if needed.

The bullpen is not any prettier than the rotation past Hamann. Keeping in mind that Belmont plays in a hitters’ park, the relief corps really lacks any solid numbers. Sometimes starter Garrett Fanchier (4-3, 0 saves, 3.95 ERA, 66.0 IP, 39 K, .283 BAA) is the first man out of the pen, while Jon Ivie (3-3, 13, 4.37, 35, 25, .274) closes. The key middle men are Blake Harvey (0-1, 0, 4.44, 26.1, 18, .303) and Josh Davis (5-1, 1, 6.26, 54.2, 34, .288). Belmont doesn’t generally go deeper than that.

The lineup is where Coach Jarvis earns his keep and it is easily the most prolific home run hitting corps of the regional with three batters in double figures. It starts with one of the regional’s best all around players in left fielder Derek Hamblen (.322, 11 HR, 36 RBI, .947 OPS). Following him are center fielder Dylan Craig (.324, 1, 35, .796) and first baseman and pitcher Woods (.347, 12, 61, 1.035). Catcher Matt Zeblo (.298, 5, 41, .887) bats cleanup and is followed by right fielder Tim Egerton (.287, 12, 53, .910) and second baseman Greg Brody (.312, 7, 38, .876). Rounding out the lineup are designated hitter Judah Akers (.289, 7, 30, .813), shortstop Jared Breen (.291, 3, 30, .762) and third baseman Zac Mitchell (.281, 2, 39, .718). Key reserves include Vinny Casha (.206, 1, 7, .577) and Drew Turner (.217, 0, 5, .693).

The Bruins defense is the weakest in the regional, with a .962 fielding percentage that is accentuated by the pitching staff’s inability to strike out batters (just 329 K in 519.1 IP). The only real highlight in the field is center fielder Craig, who has played error-free ball all year. Catcher Zeblo has thrown out approximately one of ever four base stealers.

Regional Roundup

Based on BoydsWorld’s ISR Based Probabilities, Vanderbilt has a 89.4 percent probability of advancing through the regional, with Oklahoma State carrying an 8.5 percent change of advancing. Troy has a 2.0 percent chance of advancing while Belmont is predicted to have no chance of advancing. Only Virginia (95.7 percent) and North Carolina (91.8 percent) are considered more likely to advance. This holds true with my predictions for the weekend. The only real roadblock for the Commodores seems to be Belmont starter Matt Hamann and his robust 9-1 record and 2.28 ERA. Hamann is not a strikeout pitcher, making him one of the rare guys who can give the Commodores fits at times. Should the Commodores win on Friday, they ought to be able to hold out against the remainder of the opposition’s pitching staff.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State will face a stiff test themselves with Troy’s Tyler Ray. Oklahoma State’s lack of a true ace may work in the regular season, but lacking a true star pitcher can come back to haunt even a top team in the short form tournaments.

Top Match Ups

The Friday night match ups will be the ones to watch, as only Vanderbilt really goes more than one ace deep in their staff. Gray vs. Hamann promises to be an interesting battle of Nashville based aces, but it’s the under card match up of Ray against the Oklahoma State bats that proves to be most intriguing and offers the only really probable “upset” of the regional. On paper, Troy seems to be a strong Friday favorite.

Predictions

Friday: Troy over Oklahoma State; Vanderbilt over Belmont
Saturday: Oklahoma State over Belmont; Vanderbilt over Troy
Sunday: Oklahoma State over Troy; Vanderbilt over Oklahoma

Reading List

VandySports.comChris Lee’s outstanding Nashville Regional Capsules (everything you could want to know about OKState, Troy and Belmont)

Baseball America Top 25 Tracker Page (updates when posted by BA)

VandySports.com Baseball Page (multiple stories and previews, including great Mike Rapp photo sets)

Vandy BlogoSphere – Anchor of Gold and VandySportsLine

Vandy Message Boards – VandySports and VandyMania

College Baseball DailyVanderbilt Tag (including Drew Fann’s weekly blog)

Feedback

Let me know what you think, as I always appreciate feedback (even if just to note a typo). You can comment below, share this article on Twitter or Facebook. And remember to follow me on Twitter (my baseball tweeting account or this website’s feed).

And a special thanks to Mike Rapp at VandySports.com. He is the best photographer of Vanderbilt sports and an even better person. Without him, this site wouldn’t have most of its sports art.

  1. June 3rd, 2011 at 14:43 | #1

    Awesome work getting credentialed. Looking forward to reading your stuff next week.

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