After winning at least three games in the past four SEC Tournaments and making 3-of-4 championship games, a the 1-2 finish this season just stinks for the black and gold nation. However, remember, there was a time when just making the tourney was cause for celebration. Winning a game meant even more celebration.
Vandy is second to none in tourney success over the past few years. Look at Florida, the regular season champion who eliminated Vandy and then was eliminated themselves on Saturday. The Gators haven't made an SEC tournament championship game since 2000 and they've had some pretty darn good teams during that time. It's been a good run for Vandy and maybe the 'Dores just got their long overdue poor series.
On the bright side, hopefully this will bode well for the 'Dores. Over the past few years we've seen SEC teams struggle in the SEC tourney and then go on to make it to Omaha. For instance, in 2008 Georgia went 0-2 in the SEC-T but then in the NCAA the Bulldogs won their regional and then defeated N.C. State two games to one in their Super Regional. The Dawgs advanced to Omaha and won four straight before dropping two games to Fresno State. That same Florida program that I mentioned earlier as not having participated in an SEC-T title game since 2000, won several games at Omaha in 2005. Mississippi State in 2007 is another example. That year the Bulldogs were 0-for-2 in SEC-T games but were 5-2 in the NCAA and went to Omaha. Could this be the year for the diamond 'Dores? Let's hope so!
The Tennessean headline on Saturday was, "Vanderbilt bats go silent" (at least on their website), however Vandy's bat's were far from silent. The Commodores recorded nine hits, two more than the winning Gators. Trouble was on four occasions the Commodores hit into double plays. Double plays are killers for the team that hits into them. They hurt in multiple ways. They negate earlier hits or walks; you've usually got a guy on base (of course) and now he's out along with the batter. The DP causes two potential runs to be lost provide free outs for the opposing pitcher. If he is a stud like Hudson Randall, who Vandy faced on Thursday night, then he gets to stay in the game a lot longer because of the free passes he is getting on batters. Notice that late in the game after Randall was finally pulled the Commodores made at least some kind of noise offensively and scored a couple runs. Who knows what might have happened had Randall come out an inning or two earlier? For our 'Dores to be successful in the NCAA's they are going to have to reduce their tendency for hitting into these disgusting double plays. I hate to beat a dead horse on this but these double plays are beating the black and gold's chances of victory.
What is the answer to this double play quandary? I don't know; I'm not a baseball authority. Some say that the Commodores have some slow players and others say that it's the third base coach. It may be a combination of several things or just plain ole bad luck. I know Tim Corbin has got to be scratching his head and trying to unravel this mystery.
Today at 2:30 p.m. at www.ncaa.com/CWS regional site selections will be announced. Then on Monday at 11:30 a.m. (ESPN) the 64-team field will be unveiled. We know Vanderbilt will be one of those 64 teams in the tournament; their record and RPI are way too good not to be. The big question is will they host a regional or not as only 16 teams can host. As of early Sunday morning Vanderbilt was still rated as the No. 13 team in Boyd's RPI ratings, just ahead of No. 14 through 16 Florida State, TCU and Auburn. Problem is, just because you are a No. 1 seed doesn't mean you'll host a regional and Vanderbilt has been mentioned by several publications including ESPN as being a candidate to be a No. 1 seed who doesn't host.
Regardless of where the Commodores are playing next weekend the pitching mound will be the same distance from home plate and the rules of the game will be the same. I have a feeling this team is going to do something special in the NCAA tournament, something they've never done before. I don't know why; it's just a feeling I have. Don't tell the team. :)
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