The Commodores young pitching staff finally ran out of answers in their fifth game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. A glance at the depleted pitching roster seemed to indicate that they would have had to pull a proverbial rabbit out of the bullpen had they somehow managed to scrap their way past an equally feisty Ole Miss team.
It's time to think ahead. No Tim Corbin-coached team will ever take the field apathetic about victory, contrary to a couple of league brethren that appeared to mail it in here. But now that this encouraging effort is history, there are more games to ponder.
We just don't know where or exactly when but we do know they will not occur in Hawkins Field. Darn it. What Commodores everywhere wouldn't give to revive that electricity we felt last June. Could it be that a year has already passed?
We'll all find out together Monday at 11:30 a.m. CT when ESPN announces the field.
The committee offers no clues.
There has been an undertow of chagrin among Commodore faithful this spring. Many of us have been realizing just how special that bunch was. Some of us, new to following our national pastime closely, just assumed the beat would go on. It's not that simple.
But these `Dores are also stocked with lots of talent and there doesn't appear to be anybody volunteering to play it in the upcoming regional. Hey - the record is 40-20! What the Cubs wouldn't have given for this winning percentage most decades.
It's truly one of the nation's top programs. In the last five years Vanderbilt has reached the SEC title game three times, falling just shy this time. The roster abounds with professional prospects. An excellent freshman class awaits its journey to campus this fall. The academicians will show the team's 3 point-plus spring grade point average - first in memory for a VU "revenue" sport team - as another sign it's a winner.
The season resembled a Rocky Balboa fight. They got knocked down but got up swinging.
During his very first at-bat of the season, national pre-season player of the year choice Pedro Alvarez broke his hand and would miss 23 games, losing his batter's eye in the process. About the time this slugger was getting back on Corbin's lineup card, veteran Alex Feinberg took a 90-mile per hour fastball in the jaw. For the record, it didn't even knock him off his feet.
That happened on Saturday; there was emergency surgery Sunday morning. For some reason, doctors thought he should miss the midweek games with Western Kentucky and Austin Peay. Apparently his swollen face and wired jaws were a factor; the medics take a dim view of athletes eating their pre-game meal through a straw.
Feinberg got off the disabled list when he proved he could breathe while running and was in the starting lineup that next weekend at Mississippi State. Think about that should you wonder if this team has the necessary toughness to win on the big stage.
Indeed, this is a gritty bunch of Commodores - winners in every important way and anxious to hustle out on another field in another city against another team to do something each and every one of them loves to do...play ball.