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Vanderbilt Baseball: Fifteenth Week Behind, Week Ahead

June 3rd, 2011 1 comment

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.

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Vanderbilt Baseball: Twelfth Week Behind, Week Ahead

May 10th, 2011 2 comments

Vanderbilt returns to the Hawk for Florida after a midweek trip to Louisville. Photo courtesy Mike Rapp, VandySports.com.

It was somewhat of a boring week for the Commodores. There was no midweek game, finals were finished and the team had the lazy bus ride up to Lexington to face off against the Wildcats of Kentucky. While the games weren’t without some drama, the lack of big crowds up North kept the games somewhat mild.

The Immediate Progression: Saturday Domination

One thing that truly separates great teams is the ability to pound opponents with top flight starters Friday through Sunday. The game where the rubber meets the road is Saturday.

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Vanderbilt Baseball: Eleventh Week Behind, Week Ahead

May 4th, 2011 Comments off

Last week, Vandy was a step faster than LSU. This week, it was more than just Vanderbilt excellence, as Tennessee was also doubly slow. Photo courtesy of Mike Rapp, VandySports.com.

Well, it was the Nashville Massacre weekend. I’m not sure Vanderbilt has ever enjoyed a sustained beat down on an SEC opponent. The only thing that comes to mind is the Basketball team’s undressing of Billy Gillespie’s Kentucky Wildcats in February of 2008.

Of course, the joy of the Nashville Massacre quickly evaporated into the jubilation over Usama Bin Laden “getting got”, to quote The Wire. Nevertheless, we’ll hop right into the topic of the week.

The Immediate Progression

The theme of the last two weeks has been maturity. I was chatting with Chris Lee of VandySports.com last Thursday and both he and I agreed that the thing setting this team apart was a tremendous attitude, highlighted by incredible maturity up and down the roster. In particular, we both commented on the plate discipline and demeanor of Tony Kemp and Conrad Gregor. Both are incredibly advanced as hitters, never swinging at a pitcher’s pitches before two strike counts. The end result is getting good pitches to hit and a ton of walks.

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Vanderbilt Baseball: Tenth Week Behind, Week Ahead

April 26th, 2011 Comments off

Symbolic of the weekend, Tony Kemp slides in easy for a steal on Sunday. One of many great photos from Mike Rapp of VandySports.com. See the link in the Reading List to see the wholle gallery.

Well, the Dores stewed for about four days, chomping at the bit to get a chance to head back out to avenge their first series loss of the year. It didn’t take long once they were out there, making this a fun weekend for Commodore fans. Add in that two games were televised and you’ve got quite the weekend. So let’s jump into it.

The Immediate Progression

Due to traffic on the Long Island Expressway and getting back to the City late, I’m going to crib on the Immediate Progression this week. The victim of my thievery will be a fellow Vandy fan on Twitter, @GREGuthrie, who compiled in-conference stats for the Commodore starting rotation after Saturday’s win over LSU. While Taylor Hill’s in-conference stats are solid (2-0, ERA around 3.5), we’ll glance at the Commodores’ two pitchers competing for SEC Pitcher of the Year honors.

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Vanderbilt Baseball: Ninth Week Behind, Week Ahead

April 19th, 2011 2 comments

Matt Price, along with Michael Roth, represented the difference in elevating SC over then-#1 Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of GamecockCentral.com, South Carolina's top sports and fan site.

Well, all good things must come to an end. Despite the 2-2 week and the first series loss of the season, things still look up for the Commodores. They have the midweek off after playing one of the great regular season series in recent SEC history. It was a battle of Titans and, while some might want others to kiss the proverbial ring, it was a match-up of near equals that will benefit both squads in the experience category.

The weekend also marked a milestone on the calendar — one which leads right into our Immediate Progression.

The Immediate Progression: Road to Hoover

With the SEC schedule hitting the halfway point, it’s time to take a quick peek at how the Road to Hoover is panning out. As a general rule, a trip to Hoover pretty much guarantees an NCAA birth, with those falling on the wrong side of the line in trouble. While the SEC usually puts no fewer than 8 teams in the regionals, Hoover is a nice safety net.

There are three teams that have pretty much assured themselves of a Hoover berth with early season success. Not surprisingly, those three teams are the beasts of the east.

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Vanderbilt Baseball: Eighth Week Behind, Week Ahead

April 11th, 2011 2 comments

Tony Kemp earned many a high five on Sunday, with what will likely be the play of the year. Photo: Mike Rapp, VandySports.com.

It was another stellar week in the top spot for the Dores as they swept away the competition, including their first sweep of Alabama since 1986, their second highest weekend series attendance ever and their first ever 8 game regular season conference game winning streak. It will certainly be enough to hold onto the top spot in the Baseball America, NCBWA Poll, USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and Perfect Game rankings. With UVA winning 2 of 3 at #14 Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt may not unify the #1 ranking crown by picking up Collegiate Baseball’s top spot, but it’s a successful week, nonetheless.

The Immediate Progression: Leadership

Message boards are often a funny thing. People get worked up over minor criticism of coaches, particularly when it comes to current Commodore Coaches Kevin Stallings and Tim Corbin. While this author happens to be a huge fan and supporter of both, many think that support should be dogmatic. I’m reminded of my old grammar school basketball coach who once echoed loudly when pointing out a poor decision he had made, saying “I’m not infallible; I’m not the freaking pope.” Catholicism aside, he had a point and one which makes a truly great coach: leadership starts with adapting to faults.

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Vanderbilt Baseball: Seventh Week Behind, Week Ahead

April 5th, 2011 Comments off

Well, it was a successful second try as the number 1 team in the nation. The last time Vanderbilt held that ranking, they went 3-1 on the week, but lost the spot as Florida swept away LSU in Baton Rouge. This week, all four teams in the running for the top spot took care of business, with Virginia sweeping past George Washington via a perfect game before pouring it on Virginia Tech. South Carolina made their case by besting The Citadel, before sweeping Kentucky. Finally, Florida bounced back from a midweek loss to Florida State to bounce Tennessee out of Gainesville.

The Immediate Progression: Catching Up With Predictions

The immediate progression this week will run back to January, when I revealed my SEC predicted standings. This week marked the mid-point of the season, so what better time to revisit my best guesses at how things will turn out.

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Vanderbilt Baseball — Sixth Week Behind, Week Ahead

March 28th, 2011 4 comments

Vanderbilt went into Fayetteville and stole 2 of 3 from the Razorbacks. Photo: Wesley Hitt / Arkansas.

Another week and Vanderbilt is likely headed to another #1 ranking, as the Commodores took care of business with a 3-1 week, while Florida faltered against South Carolina, after spanking Winthrop by a total score of 32-5 in two midweek games. The Florida series loss should push Vanderbilt into the top spot, unless they are leapfrogged by Virginia, who was impressive in sweeping a 5-game week and holds a 1.5-game advantage over Vanderbilt for the best record in NCAA baseball.

The Immediate Progression: Beasts of the East

Two weekends into the SEC season, and it does appear that there has been some shakeout to separate the elite three from the rest of the conference pack. Although the Crimson Tide currently hold the conference’s best record at 5-1, they’ve only played Ole Miss and Kentucky. The real power source is atop the Eastern Division, where three top 5 ranked teams dwell.

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Vanderbilt Baseball — Fifth Week Behind, Week Ahead

March 20th, 2011 5 comments

Jason Esposito enjoyed another fine week at the plate, as the Commodore bats came to life and upped their team batting average to .316. Photo: Mike Rapp, VandySports.com.

It was the best of times and the worst of times for Vanderbilt this week. Riding high after being named the #1 team in the nation by the National Baseball Writers Association, Vandy started off the week going gangbusters while continuing a scoreless innings pitched streak to 32 innings, fueled by three consecutive shutouts on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. They were also on cruise control with an 8-4 lead heading to the 8th inning on Sunday, but a bullpen that entered the day with a 1.77 ERA full-on collapsed in that inning, yielding 5 earned runs on 5 hits and 2 walks. The high experienced from a truly dominant start to the week week, outscoring opponents 31-4 to that point, ended with a very demoralizing loss.

Despite the poor taste left by that failure, Tony Kemp in the post game interview seemed to keep somewhat upbeat about a series win being a series win. That was the case, despite falling to the dreaded To Be Announced bullpen day for Mississippi State. All told, Vanderbilt still enjoyed a fine week, going 3-1 and should stay in the 2nd to 3rd ranked position in all major polls, though they will likely cede their NCBWA top ranking back to Florida, who swept LSU in Baton Rouge.

The Immediate Progression – Pitching Depth

This year’s Vanderbilt squad features a depth of quality arms unlike any seen in the Coaches Tim Corbin and Derek Johnson era. While there have been many stellar staffs, including the 2004 squad that earned Johnson the National Pitching Coach of the Year award and the 2007 squad that featured first team All-Americans David Price and Casey Weathers, I’m not sure any can compete with the extraordinary embarrassment of riches the 2011 team features.

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Vanderbilt Baseball – Third Week Behind, Week Ahead

March 7th, 2011 Comments off

Aaron Westlake provided the power throughout the week, upping his batting average to .429. Photo Steve Green, Vanderbilt.

In this, the third Week Behind, Week Ahead, we’re going to temporarily sneak away from celebrating another victorious week for the Dores and simply delve into that great debate which rattles VandySports.com and the Twitter-sphere each time Vandy plays: why on earth do the Dores bunt so darn much? That will lead off before we get into a true review of the weekend, on which Vanderbilt went 4-0, taking Western Kentucky on Tuesday and sweeping three from Brown over the weekend, including a double-header on Sunday.

The Immediate Progression: Bunting

While there are plenty of highlights to talk about in starting a season 11-1 — not the least of which is a pitching staff that has been downright overpowering — the one area of real concern is the continued slumber of a good number of Commodore bats. This has been exacerbated by the 90 foot by 90 foot reality of a ground ball hitting team and the BBCOR era of bats.

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