Baseball opens 2010 with Niagara

Feb. 18, 2010

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Vanderbilt vs. Niagara
Friday, February 19 • 4 p.m. CT
Saturday, February 20 • 1 p.m. CT
Sunday, February 21 • 1 p.m. CT
Hawkins Field (3,700)

Series History vs. Niagara
This weekend's series will be the first ever meetings between the two schools.

Vanderbilt is ranked No. 29 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers and No. 32 by Collegiate Baseball in each syndicate's preseason poll. Niagara is unranked.

The Coaches
VU's Tim Corbin is 276-157 in his eighth season in Nashville. He is 382-295 in 14 seasons overall. Niagara's Rob McCoy is 20-35 in his second season as the head coach.

The first two games of the series will be broadcast in the Nashville area on WNSR 560 AM, with Sunday's contest an internet only production. All three games will be webcast on

Joe Fisher will call the action in the Friday opener, with Eric Jones handling the Saturday and Sunday broadcasts.

Fans can also sign up for text updates via and follow livestats through

Season tickets are available for purchase online at or through the Vanderbilt Ticket Office (615) 322-GOLD.

What's On Tap
Vanderbilt opens its 121st season of baseball this weekend as Niagara comes to town for a three-game series. The Commodores and Purple Eagles will open on Friday at 4 p.m. and will continue at 1 p.m. on Saturday, before closing things out on Sunday at 1 p.m.

About Niagara
Niagara finished with a 20-35 record a year ago with a 14-10 record in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. Head coach Rob McCoy is in his second season at the helm of the program and his first as the full-time skipper after serving in an interim capacity a year ago.

Junior infielder Brian Deering is the top returning hitter after notching a .356 batting average with six homers and 39 RBI a year ago. As a team, Niagara batted .280 with 18 homers and 303 runs scored in 55 games (5.5 per game).

Senior righthander Michael Spaulding is top returning pitcher after sporting a 4-5 record with a 5.06 ERA in 12 starts a year ago. He had 60 strikeouts and 32 walks in 74.2 innings pitched. As a team, the Purple Eagles had a 6.79 ERA with 298 strikeouts and 254 walks in 436.0 innings. Niagara's rotation was unavailable as of Thursday morning.

Season/Home Openers
Vanderbilt is 4-3 in season openers under Tim Corbin and is 55-43-2 all-time in season openers according to school records available. Friday's contest marks the first time since 2005 that VU has opened at home. The Commodores are 3-0 in season openers at Hawkins Field dating back to the inaugural season in 2002. Under Corbin, VU is 7-0 in home openers.

Opening Day Starter
Sonny Gray will get the nod on the mound on Friday, joining a stellar list of Commodore starters to pitch on opening day in the Tim Corbin era. The list includes first-round draft picks Jeremy Sowers, David Price and Mike Minor and third round pick Ryan Mullins. In addition, Gray is the first right-hander to start for Corbin on opening day. Below is the list of opening day starters:
2003 Jeremy Sowers (LHP)
2004 Jeremy Sowers (LHP)
2005 Ryan Mullins (LHP)
2006 David Price (LHP)
2007 David Price (LHP)
2008 Mike Minor (LHP)
2009 Mike Minor (LHP)
2010 Sonny Gray (RHP)

Commodores Picked To Finish Fourth In SEC East
Vanderbilt was picked to finish fourth in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division as the league office released its annual preseason coaches poll today.

The Commodores received one first-place vote in the division with Florida, last year's division winner, garnering 64 of a possible 66 points from the coaches.

LSU is predicted to repeat as the 2010 Southeastern Conference baseball champions, as voted by the league's 12 baseball coaches in the 19th annual preseason SEC poll.

The Tigers, ranked No. 2 nationally in multiple preseason polls, seek to capture their league-leading 15th SEC Championship. The Tigers return eight position players with starting experience and 10 pitchers from their 2009 squad which claimed the NCAA National Championship.

Since 1996, the SEC has named a regular season champion as well as a tournament champion. Prior to 1996, the tournament champion was considered the SEC Champion.

In the overall SEC Champion vote, LSU received five of a possible 11 votes. Florida received four votes while Arkansas had three.

In addition to picking a preseason SEC champion, the league's head coaches voted a predicted order of finish in the SEC Eastern and Western Divisions. In the Eastern Division, Florida was the favorite with 64 of a possible 66 points. South Carolina came in second with 52 points and Georgia third with 42. LSU was the favorite in the Western Division with a total of 63 points. Arkansas was second with 59, while Ole Miss, who shared the overall title last season with LSU, finished third with 39.

Points were compiled on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for each division. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team. Each coach also voted for one team as an overall conference champion.

Eastern Division
1) Florida (9)
2) South Carolina (2)
3) Georgia
4) Vanderbilt (1)
5) Kentucky
6) Tennessee

Western Division
1) LSU (8)
2) Arkansas (4)
3) Ole Miss
4) Alabama
5) Auburn
6) Mississippi State

( ) - First Place Votes
SEC Champion: LSU (5); Florida (4); Arkansas (3)

Commodore Tidbits
Seven of the eight top hitters from last year return with combined totals of . 314 batting average, 43 HRs, 96 2B and 294 RBI ... The Commodores play 13 of their first 16 games at Hawkins Field, the lone road trip a three-game round robin appearance in Los Angeles next week ... The Commodores will not have a left-hander in the weekend rotation for the first time in Tim Corbin's tenure ... Sophomore third baseman starts the year with a five-game hitting streak, while junior catcher/first baseman Curt Casali has a four-game active skein ... VU has had the top draft pick in the SEC the last three years (2007-09) and four out of the last six years including Jeremy Sowers in 2004 ... Russell Brewer is seven saves behind school record holder Ryan Rote's (2004-05) ... Niagara is the first team the Commodores have faced from the Metro Atlantic Conference since taking on Manhattan in 1927. The league didn't form until 1980.

Sonny and Jack Preseason All-Americans
Sophomore right-handed pitchers Sonny Gray and Jack Armstrong were both named to Baseball America's preseason All-America teams.

Gray was named to the BA's second-team, while Armstrong was a third-team choice.

The duo was part of a group of 13 Southeastern Conference players named to the three All-America squads, including seven first-team selections.

Gray went 5-1 with a 4.30 ERA and notched 72 strikeouts in 58.2 innings last spring en route to Freshman All-American honors. He pitched predominantly out of the bullpen to start the year before moving into the weekend rotation at the end of the season. The Smyrna, Tenn., native made 22 appearances with four starts and led the team with five saves. He pitched for the USA National Collegiate Team over the summer and went 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA in eight appearances. Gray struck out 27 in 24 innings while opponents hit only .139 off him and was named the No. 3 pro prospect on the squad by Baseball America.

Armstrong saw limited action for the Commodores last spring as he adjusted to the college game. He recorded a three-inning save in his last outing, a 10-2 win over Georgia on May 8. The Florida native excelled over the summer pitching for Wareham in the Cape Cod League. He went 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA and struck out 31 in 35 innings of work for the Gateman Armstrong was named to the Cape Cod All-Star team and was honored with Wareham's Albert Bigelow Award, an award given to the team's most outstanding pitcher. His four wins tied for tops in the CCBL and he was ranked the No. 6 prospect in the league by Baseball America.

Commodores Had Longest Road Trip In College Baseball
As Division I baseball starts up this week across the country, one Vanderbilt record that will not be beaten is longest trip of the year. Vanderbilt traveled 6,648 miles to Tokyo, Japan and an additional 1,797 miles to Hong Kong over the Thanksgiving holiday week. Due to a generous gift by Vanderbilt alum Bill Kaye, the Commodores were able to fly to Japan and face four of the top teams in Japan's collegiate system. Along with the quality competition the kids were able to experience different cultures, each with their own unique traditions and histories. The team went 1-1-2 on the field and learned valuable lessons off the field as well.




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