VANDERBILT RE-VU Vanderbilt endured a tough start to the 2012 season winning one game in February (1-7) and ultimately starting 7-10 before beginning play in the rugged Southeastern Conference. The Commodores did not see their record level off to .500 until a midweek win over Louisville on May 8. Despite the slow start to the season the Dores finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the nation finishing the regular season with four straight SEC series victories, including wins over ranked opponents Kentucky, LSU and Ole Miss. The team pushed its way back into the SEC Tournament Championship Game for the sixth time in nine trips under Head Coach Tim Corbin with wins over South Carolina and Florida before a loss to Mississippi State. The Commodores were sent to the Raleigh Regional for the NCAA Tournament, where the team topped UNC-Wilmington in the opener and stunned host NC State in the second game. Vanderbilt's season came to an end with back-to-back tough losses to the Wolfpack to finish the 2012 campaign 35-28.
ON THE BUMP Friday, February 15, 4 p.m. LHP Kevin Ziomek (0-0, -.--) vs. RHP Jon Maciel (0-0, -.--)
Saturday, February 16, 2 p.m. RHP Tyler Beede (0-0, -.--) vs. RHP Shane Carle (0-0, -.--)
Sunday, February 17, 1 p.m. RHP T.J. Pecoraro (0-0, -.--) vs. LHP Landon Hunt (0-0, -.--)
PROS KNOW THE COMMODORES The Vanderbilt roster boasts an astonishing 18 players that have been drafted prior to this season. The Commodores' 18 players are the most on any collegiate roster in the country. Senior Mike Yastrzemski is the only Dore to have been drafted twice, turning down Boston out of high school and Seattle last summer. Of the Commodores' 11-man recruiting class, seven were selected in last summer's major league baseball draft. Baseball America's list of the top 50 players from each class is littered with Commodores with nine total. Pitchers Walker Buehler (No. 1) and Carson Fulmer (No. 6) along with infielder Dansby Swanson (No. 28) and outfielder Rhett Wiseman (No. 30) are featured in the freshman class. Right-hander Tyler Beede is the second-rated sophomore. Lefty Kevin Ziomek (No. 18) and infielder Conrad Gregor (No. 41) are among the top 50 juniors. Senior outfielders Connor Harrell (No. 25) and Mike Yastrzemski (No. 27) are two of the top seniors in the nation.
DORES BRINGING BACK BUNCHES Vanderbilt enters the season with high expectations carrying the highest preseason ranking in school history. The Commodores' previous high was in 2008 when the team opened the year at No. 3 in the Baseball America poll. The 2013 team returns 23 letterwinners, including eight position starters and the entire weekend rotation. The roster has 10 players that started at least 10 games last season and four players that have started over 100 games.
FOR STARTERS Vanderbilt opens the season against an unfamiliar foe in Long Beach State with this weekend's series serving as the first three games the two schools have ever played. Since Coach Corbin's arrival in 2003, the Commodores are 6-4 in lid lifters, including 3-0 in season openers at Hawkins Field.
BUSY FEBRUARY Vanderbilt does not waste any time jumping into the 2013 season with 10 games in the season's opening two weeks. The Commodores will play nine games at home and travel across town to take on Belmont next Tuesday. The Dores' season opening series at home is the first since 2010 when VU opened the year with a three-game series against Niagara.
PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS Four Commodores earned preseason All-American recognition with juniors Conrad Gregor, Spencer Navin, Tony Kemp and Kevin Ziomek getting the nod. All four players were recognized by Baseball America to help lead the Commodores to the most All-Americans on the publication's list. Gregor was also named a preseason All-American by Perfect Game and Collegiate Baseball. Navin and Kemp were each tabbed All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball as well.
BACK-TO-BACK NO. 1 RECRUITING CLASSES Vanderbilt became the first-ever school to land consecutive, top-ranked recruiting classes when Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball tabbed the Dores' freshman class No. 1.In the 13 years of the Baseball America recruiting class poll, no school had ever achieved back-to-back No. 1 recruiting classes and only Arizona State (2000, 2008) has two top classes. Vanderbilt now has three in the history of the poll with the best class in 2005, 2011 and 2012.
KEMP CLOSING IN ON TRIPLES RECORD Junior Tony Kemp does not like to stop at second having already matched the school record with 15 triples in his first two seasons as Commodore. Last season the Dores' leadoff man recorded eight triples to lead the Southeastern Conference and match Ryan Klosterman's (2003-04) total from 2004. Kemp enters the 2013 season tied with Nick Morrow (1991-94) for the school record. Kemp's first two seasons have already put in position to challenge the league mark of 21 career triples held by Brian Duva (1991-94) of Florida, who needed 241 games to get to 21. Kemp has played in 128 games in his first two seasons.
IRON MIKE Senior Mike Yastrzemski enters the season having started 137 straight games for the Commodores. The outfielder's amazing streak started during his freshman season in 2010 and has continued with the senior playing in every game the last two seasons. Yastrzemski has started 164 of his 187 career games entering this season.
TWO NEW COACHES JOIN CORBIN'S STAFF The biggest change for the Commodores in 2013 is in the dugout, where long time pitching coach Derek Johnson and hitting coach Josh Holliday are gone. Holliday left to become the head coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma State, and was replaced by Travis Jewett in August. Jewett joins the Commodores from Arizona State, where he helped lead the Sun Devils to the College World Series in 2010. Jewett serves as the Dores' hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. Johnson left the Dores to become the Chicago Cubs' minor league pitching coordinator at the end of fall practice and was replaced by Scott Brown. VU's new pitching coach, Brown spent the previous nine seasons at St. John's building a national reputation as one of the best young minds in the game.
SEC COACHES PICK COMMODORES TO WIN EAST The coaches of the Southeastern Conference voted the Commodores as the team to beat in the SEC East division. Arkansas was picked to win the West and the overall league title. The Dores were selected to finish in front of (in order) Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri. In the West, the Razorbacks were picked ahead of (in order) LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Alabama and Auburn.
PROFESSIONALS WITH PROFESSORS This past fall, seven former Commodores were on campus working towards completing their degrees at Vanderbilt. Pitchers Sam Selman (Kansas City), Navery Moore (Atlanta), Corey Williams (Minnesota) and Jack Armstrong (Houston) joined position players Joe Loftus (Arizona) and Anthony Gomez (Miami) on campus as students working on their undergrad degrees. Former pitcher Mark Lamm (Atlanta) was back on West End working towards his graduate degree.
COMMODORES ON NEW TURF AT THE HAWK Since last season Hawkins Field underwent a face-lift on the field, switching from natural grass to synthetic turf. The Hawk's new surface features multiple levels of turf blades and sand/rubber mixtures throughout the field. The only dirt now on the field is the pitcher's mound. The brown turf on the field (infield, warning track) features shorter blades than the green turf.
FORMER COMMODORE David Price WINS CY YOUNG AWARD Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price won the American League Cy Young Award after an outstanding 2012 season. The lefty went 20-5 to tie for the AL lead with a league-best 2.56 ERA and 205 strikeouts, sixth-most in the AL, to win his first Cy Young Award. Price's newest trophy is just the latest addition to his trophy case after the southpaw won nearly every collegiate award for his 2007 season at Vanderbilt when he set a school record with 194 strikeouts.
HAWKINS FIELD: OFFSEASON HOME TO PRO DORES Once again, Hawkins Field and Vanderbilt hosted numerous former Commodores over the offseason as the professional players prepared for their respective 2013 seasons. At least 20 former Dores used Hawkins Field and the baseball facilities during the winter months, including major leaguers David Price, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Baxter and Ryan Flaherty. Interviews with several players are featured in a web series on vucommodores.com called Catching Up.
COMMODORES SET TO PLAY ON TV 10 TIMES Vanderbilt is scheduled to play 10 regular season games on television this season with five at home and five on the road. The Commodores home TV games are March 22 and 23 vs. Florida, March 30 vs. Tennessee, April 13 vs. Missouri and April 27 vs. Mississippi State. On the road the Dores will play on TV at Auburn April 16, all three games at South Carolina May 3-5 and at Kentucky May 11.