From the darkest of moments, the Vanderbilt season has seemingly turned a corner. Although it would be hard to imagine another Omaha run and the NCAA playoffs still seem like a long shot, the VandyBoys do appear to be having fun out there. After a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Georgia on Friday, the Commodores erupted upon Conrad Gregor’s game winning single on Saturday night. Visiting Bulldog fans might have wondered what could have caused a near dog pile type celebration, but after seeing the frustration of a 7-15 record at the time and a season with so much promise in which so many things have gone wrong, the raucous victory lap was long overdue.
The Dores have a long way to go to get truly right, but it was a great first step and a pair of nail-biter victories over the Bulldogs were complimented by an easy midweek win over Tennessee Tech. More importantly, for the first time this season, Vanderbilt appears to be really having fun out there and is playing a more fundamentally sound version of baseball.
The Immediate Progression – Getting to .501
Eligibility for the SEC playoffs has been expanded to ten teams in 2012. Currently, only one team seems certain to be excluded. The Alabama Crimson Tide are 9-16 and just 1-5 in SEC play with an RPI of 135. While Vanderbilt is just a game better on the season (and, more troubling, has yet to win any of their seven road games – though six have been against NCAA’s elite Florida and Stanford squads), the Commodores schedule appears softer than the Tide from hereon out. So it seems that Vanderbilt will likely compete with Tennessee (15-10, 2-4) and an injury-plagued Mississippi State (17-9, 2-4) squad for the lower end of Hoover eligibility this year.
Now, it’s entirely possible that the VandyBoys could either click on full in SEC play – after all, the talent is there – or completely fall apart. My guess is that we end up somewhere in the middle of that road. The starting pitching has certainly come around, and if TJ Pecoraro can regain his feel for pitching and have enough endurance to start, Vanderbilt should feel confident in a Sunday win each week (especially with Drew VerHagen and Will Clinard sharing closing duties).
So what would Vanderbilt need to do to be eligible for post-season play?
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