Let the Good Times Roll
June 22, 2011
Ain't this fun!
We're sorry we couldn't be more profound but we just walked through the hotel's lobby as the Commodores were coming back from yet another College World Series conquest. The new, unofficial theme song "Takin' Care of Business" was blaring and a maze of jubilant well-wishers were slapping high fives.
This is fun.
It should not be surprising to anyone, friend or foe, however. How could it be? Right now there are four teams left in the CWS field and three of them are from the SEC East! Pause for a moment to let that fact sink in.
These "Beasts of the East" have played in 23 NCAA Tournament games so far and the combined record between the trio is 21-2. The two losses were Florida's loss to Mississippi State and our setback to the Gators. Add State's regional title and the only losses by the entire league were inside jobs. Hmmm, can you spell dominating?
One has to admire and respect the North Carolina team and its classy coach, Mike Fox. But aside from Tar Heel insiders, there are few others in the crowd of 24,394 that didn't expect Vanderbilt to equal its school record 54th win on this unusually cool, blustery Omaha evening.
One of the Commodore heroes was a guy named Taylor Hill. Remember him?
Taylor hadn't pitched in so long that his photo was appearing on milk cartons and post office walls? "Have you seen this man?" There are folks in witness protection that have gotten more exposure lately, but that's what happens when you are blowing away opposition with Sonny Gray and Grayson Garvin. As the third starter, Taylor hadn't been on a live mound since June 5.
There was one positive about his obviously fresh arm - he was in no hurry to come out even as his mounting pitch count crossed the customary barrier of 100, then 110 and beyond. He was terrific with his 125 tosses, even though he admitted afterwards that he wasn't completely sure if he'd have to blow off some rust to get in the groove. No worries.
The victors get the spoils. We'd wager our last dollar - if wagering were permitted by the NCAA - that nobody wearing a Vanderbilt jersey has thought about the fact that by reaching the semi-finals -- the Final Four -- the program is assured of bringing home a large, attractive NCAA trophy. There is only one trophy on their mind these days.
Much like a sub-zero winter's day will expose a problem with your automobile, this tournament will bring out any warts in your team's arsenal. Several teams arrived here unable to hit more than an occasional ball out of the infield. While no team has run rough-shed at the plate, the Commodores own three of the tournament's six home runs and the eight-hole hitter Connor Herrell has got a pair. Tonight's second inning blast produced a comfy lead for Hill and Company.
There is a temptation to question the wisdom of the NCAA Committee's pre-tourney seeding and team selections at this point, although it would be pointless to do so. It seems to some that they bought land in the Ozarks with their seeming infatuation with the Atlantic Coast teams. South Carolina totally dominated Virginia, the top seeded team, and few would agree that UNC should have been a three seed if Vanderbilt was the No. 6. That may seem like 20-20 hindsight but many SEC types knew that a few weeks ago.
Tonight is not for complicated analysis, chest-beating or foolish predictions. Tonight is an opportunity to relish yet another milestone in an ever-growing list for this baseball program. It's a night to remember.
It's a night to have fun.