Baseball hosts Tennessee starting Thursday
May 13, 2009
Tennessee leads 162-139-2 in a series that dates back to 1897. Vanderbilt has swept the last two regular season series and has won eight of the last nine matchups dating back to 2006. VU leads 46-40 in games played in Nashville.
Last Two Seasons
May 4, 2008: Vanderbilt 10, Tennessee 8 (Knoxville)
May 3, 2008: Vanderbilt 9, Tennessee 2 (Knoxville)
May 2, 2008: Vanderbilt 8, Tennessee 5 (Knoxville)
May 25, 2007: Vanderbilt 15, Tennessee 2 (Hoover, Ala.)
May 23, 2007: Tennessee 6, Vanderbilt 4 (Hoover, Ala.)
April 22, 2007: Vanderbilt 7, Tennessee 6 (Nashville)
April 21, 2007: Vanderbilt 4, Tennessee 3 (Nashville)
April 20, 2007: Vanderbilt 3, Tennessee 1 (Nashville)
Neither team is ranked this week.
VU's Tim Corbin is 270-151 in his seventh season in Nashville. He is 376-289 in 13 seasons overall. He is 15-5 against the Volunteers. Tennessee's Todd Raleigh is 50-58 in his second season in Knoxville and is 307-267 in 10 seasons overall. He is 0-3 against Vanderbilt.
All three contests can be heard in the Nashville area on 560 AM WNSR and on the internet via www.vucommodores.com. Joe Fisher will call the action in the first two games, with Eric Jones stepping in for the finale. Fans can also sign up for text updates via www.twitter.com/vandybaseball and follow livestats through www.vucommodores.com. Webcasts for Thursday and Friday will be on the site as well.
CSS will televise Saturday's contest with Joe Fisher (play-by-play) and former Commodore twosport star Willy Daunic (analysis) calling the action. Check local listings for availability in your area.
What's On Tap
Vanderbilt closes out the regular season this weekend as in-state rival Tennessee comes to town for a three-game Southeastern Conference series. The teams will open the series a day earlier than usual on Thursday at 6 p.m. and will continue on Friday at 6 p.m., before closing things out on Saturday at Noon. Saturday's game will be televised regionally on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS). Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (615) 322-GOLD.
Tennessee is 23-29 overall and 8-19 in Southeastern Conference play after dropping two of three against South Carolina last weekend in Knoxville. The Vols defeated Middle Tennessee, 5-4 in 11 innings, in Murfreesboro Tuesday night as first baseman Cody Hawn hit a solo homer in the top of the 11th.
Hawn is UT's top offensive performer with a .350 batting average to go with 19 homers and 74 RBI. Catcher Blake Forsythe is hitting at a .346 clip with 14 homers and 43 RBI. As a team the Vols sport a .283 batting average to go with 82 homers and 360 runs scored in 52 games (6.9 per game).
Left-hander Nick Hernandez (3-5, 5.42 ERA) is slated to go on Friday, with the Saturday and Sunday starters to be determined. UT's staff has a 6.28 ERA, 11th in the SEC, with 465 strikeouts and 199 walks in 456.0 innings.
SEC Tournament Scenarios
Heading into the final weekend, Vanderbilt can finish as high as sixth and as low as ninth after the dust settles Saturday night. To a clinch a spot in the field of eight next week in Hoover, the Dores will have to hold off Kentucky which is a game and a half back with three games left to play. VU's magic number is two, if the team wins two against Tennessee they will clinch a spot no matter what the Wildcats do. If the Dores win one, Kentucky would have to sweep Florida in Gainesville, with one loss ending its hopes for Hoover.
Vanderbilt could finish as high as sixth if they were to sweep the Vols and Ole Miss takes two of three at Arkansas and either South Carolina or Georgia sweeps the other in the series in Columbia.
Kentucky's hope to finish eighth would be to take a minimum of two games at Florida and for the Commodores to get swept, or to sweep the Gators and have the Vols take two against VU.
The SEC tourney picture will get significantly clearer after Thursday night's contests around the league.
Westlake Named SEC Player of the Week
Aaron Westlake was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Week after helping lead the team to a series win at then No. 13 Georgia.
Westlake went 10-for-17 (.588) with two homers, five RBI and seven runs scored in five games last week. Against the Bulldogs, he was 7-for-11 (.636), with two homers, five RBI and five runs scored, vaulting him past UGA's Rich Poythress into the SEC batting title lead.
He now leads the conference with a .395 batting average along with six homers and 44 RBI. The California native is trying to become the first player to hit over .400 since Warner Jones hit at a .414 clip in 2004. Currently Westlake's average is the ninth best mark in Vanderbilt single season history.
It is the second SEC weekly award for Westlake as he earned Freshman of the Week plaudits on March 2. He is the second hitter to receive the award this season, joining Brian Harris who got the honor on April 27.
Cotham Knee Injury Causes Move To Bullpen
Sophomore right-hander Caleb Cotham has a partial tear of the lateral meniscus in his left knee which will require surgery immediately following the season. He will pitch out of the bullpen for the remainder of the year.
Cotham was the Saturday starter for the first nine weeks of the season before suffering the injury prior to the Mississippi State series at the end of April. He is 5-5 with a 5.19 ERA with 67 strikeouts and 25 walks in 60.2 innings pitched. He made his first relief appearance of the year against Georgia last Sunday and allowed one run on three hits in an inning of work.
Sonny Gray Invited To USA National Team Trials
USA Baseball recently that freshman pitcher Sonny Gray has been invited to the USA National Team Trials to be held June 15-24 in Cary, N.C.
Gray is one of five freshmen on the initial invite list of 17 players and one of seven pitchers invited nationally. The Smyrna, Tenn., native made his first collegiate start at No. 13 Georgia last Friday in Athens and was impressive, limiting the hard-hitting Bulldogs to just a run on three hits (all singles) in six innings of action with a career best seven strikeouts. He leads the Commodores with five saves while posting a 4-1 record and 4.74 ERA. He is second on the team with 18 appearances, 17 in relief, with 44 strikeouts and 16 walks in 38.0 innings. He struck out six batters in 2.2 innings to pick up a save in his outing against Mississippi State (4/26).
The National Team Trials will be comprised of 36 collegiate players vying for a spot on the final 22-man roster to be announced on June 24.
Vanderbilt has had a player on the USA National team the last five years dating back to the 2004 campaign. Ryan Mullins (2004), David Price (2005-06), Pedro Alvarez (2006), Casey Weathers (2006), Ryan Flaherty (2007) and Mike Minor (2007-08) all have played on Team USA over the last five years. Weathers also pitched on the 2008 Olympic Team squad that competed in Beijing last August.
Vanderbilt went 4-1 on the week with a midweek doubleheader sweep over Belmont and a series win over Georgia in Athens over the weekend ... The Commodores magic number is two to reach their fourth straight Southeastern Conference tournament and sixth in seven seasons under Tim Corbin. Two wins or a win and Kentucky loss would solidify a spot in the eight-team field. Depending on outcomes this week, VU could finish as high as sixth and as low as ninth ... After a rough week at South Carolina, the Commodore pitching staff rebounded with a stellar five games, posting a 3.15 team ERA with 45 strikeouts and 19 walks in 40.0 innings of work with two complete games ... Nick Christiani started the solid week out with a complete game shutout over Belmont on Tuesday ... Sonny Gray made his first collegiate start Friday night in Athens and held No. 12 Georgia to just one run on three hits (all singles) in six innings to pick up the win. He struck out seven and walked four in moving to 4-1 on the year ... Minor threw his first complete game of the year in a series clinching win over No. 12 Georgia on Saturday in Athens. He struck out 12 batters, one off his career high, while allowing two runs on five hits with two walks. He held the Bulldogs hitless and scoreless in seven of the nine innings pitched as UGA scored a run on three hits in the fourth and another on two hits in the eighth ... Grayson Garvin (0.2), Richie Goodenow (0.2) and Chase Reid (0.1) did not allow a run in their appearances on the week ... The pitchers held a powerful Georgia lineup to just eight runs on the weekend, four coming in the series finale on Sunday. The Bulldogs were limited to just a .185 batting average while striking out 32 times in 26.0 innings ... Offensively the Commodores jumped out to 4-0 leads in the first inning of both the Friday and Saturday wins over Georgia. The team hit .318 on the week with four homers, eight doubles and 33 runs scored ... Aaron Westlake led the Commodores to a 4-1 week, going 10-for-17 (.588) with two homers, five RBI and seven runs scored. He vaulted into the SEC batting title lead with a 7-for-11 (.636) weekend against Georgia, with two homers, five RBI and five runs scored. He now leads the conference with a .395 batting average along with six homers and 44 RBI ... Andrew Giobbi went 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer, two doubles and six RBI ... Freshman Riley Reynolds was 8-for-21 (.381) with a double and five RBI, while fellow frosh Joe Loftus went 6-for-16 (.375) with a RBI and three runs scored ... The Commodores close out the regular season against in-state rival Tennessee starting on Thursday at Hawkins Field. Prior to Saturday's game the Commodores will honor seniors Nick Christiani and Jonathan White. The two along with redshirt junior Brian Harris graduated from Vanderbilt on Monday morning.
Minor And Christiani Move Up Commodore Record Books
Last season Pedro Alvarez and Dominic de la Osa were chasing Vanderbilt offensive history. This season junior Mike Minor and senior Nick Christiani are moving up the pitching charts. Minor enters the weekend with 21 career victories, ninth all-time, while Christiani is 11th after picking up his 19th career win in a complete game shutout over Belmont on May 5. Minor is also in the Top 10 in strikeouts (280-5th) and innings pitched (275.2-10th).
Vanderbilt Newcomers Among Nation's Best
For the second time in four seasons, Vanderbilt's baseball recruiting class has been ranked in the Top 3 in the country.
Baseball America ranked the class second in the country while Collegiate Baseball had the class ranked at No. 3. Both publications listed Arizona State as having the No. 1 class, while Collegiate Baseball had Oregon at No. 2 with a 35 member class in its first season back since being eliminated as a varsity sport after the 1980-81 season.
13 members of the class reported to school in August with three other players choosing the professional ranks. Of the 13 that are in school, eight were drafted and decided to play collegiately.
The coaching staff put together the class in anticipation of a mass exodus following the 2008 season. The Commodores lost seven offensive players who had started over the last three years, including first round draft picks Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Flaherty as well as the school's all-time hits leader Dominic de la Osa.
Of Perfect Game's Top 250 prospects for college, high school and Puerto Rico, 32 players from high school did not sign professional contracts and are attending Division I schools or junior colleges. Of the 32, Vanderbilt had five players, the most of any school in the country.
Facility Upgrades Are Complete
Two seasons ago temporary bleachers were put out in right field due to Vanderbilt's first ever NCAA regional at Hawkins Field. The success of that regional set in motion plans to add permanent bleachers from right to the left-field "Green Monster". Those bleachers were added in the offseason along with 200 additional chairback seats down the first base line, bringing the seating capacity to 3,700. Season and single-game tickets are available for both the chairbacks and bleacher seats. Fans can purchase them via www.vucommodores.com or via the ticket office at (615) 322-GOLD.
Also added in the Baseball Fieldhouse is a new Hall of Honor showcasing the top players and teams in Vanderbilt history. Video highlights of recent seasons are also available via a touchscreen monitor in the facility.