Lloyd Christmas said it best after he was robbed by a sweet, old lady on a motorized cart in the movie "Dumb and Dumber."
"I didn't even see it coming."
Yes, many of us didn't see Vanderbilt's improbable turnaround happening on March 23. It's okay to admit it. The Commodores were 7-15 (0-4 in the Southeastern Conference) and their postseason hopes were fading quickly after another tough-luck loss, this time to Georgia, 1-0.
"There was a point in the season where, 'Oh man, I hope we win another game,'" shortstop Anthony Gomez admitted. "It was tough. We really hit rock bottom."
Fighting back from eight games under .500 is extremely difficult, especially when you consider the Commodores' remaining slate included 26 of 32 games against SEC opponents. The Dores kept grinding though, and reeled off series wins over five of their last six league opponents to earn a No. 5 seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament.
More impressive is Vanderbilt's run since April 28. The Commodores' 10-2 mark to close the regular season didn't come against a bunch of cupcakes. Eight of those wins were against ranked opponents, including four over top-5 teams Kentucky and LSU, as well as Ole Miss and Louisville. The Commodores are also the only SEC team to hand the Tigers a series loss at Alex Box Stadium (the SEC regular season champions were 10-2 against the rest of the league at home).
"Going 16-14 in the conference is certainly a big deal. And I think the way we played down the stretch-- we've won six of the 10 (SEC) series. I'm not trying to build a case. We're a good team and I like the way we're playing," Head Coach Tim Corbin said.
The Commodores' late-season surge caught the eye of national pundits, too. Mark Etheridge, of SEBaseball.com, has Vanderbilt as a No. 3 seed in his latest NCAA Regional projections. How many people thought that was possible a month ago? Just getting to the SEC Tournament seemed like a reach.
"Looking back, the season was definitely tough, physically draining and mentally draining," second baseman Tony Kemp said. "Coach Corbin just kept us in it and told us to keep believing in ourselves and that's what we did."
With a sweep of the No. 22 Rebels last weekend, Vanderbilt (29-25, 16-14 SEC) assured itself of hopefully more than Hoover. The Commodores are guaranteed to be over .500, making them eligible for the NCAA Tournament. And since the conference expanded to 30 games in 1996, every team with a 16-14 record made the NCAAs.
More statistics helping the Commodores' case: Warren Nolan has VU's RPI at 27 and ranks its strength of schedule third. Boyd's RPI lists Vanderbilt at 32 and SOS 10th. Sure, Vanderbilt struggled early, but they played some of the best teams in the country-- Stanford, Oregon, San Diego, Florida and South Carolina.
Somehow, with their backs against the wall, the Commodores survived and matured.
Baseball in June seems likely now.
And Lloyd Christmas wouldn't want it any other way. Even if his odds were one out of a million.