Vanderbilt baseball is set to open fall practice this afternoon at Hawkins Field with 22 returning letterwinners and a 18-man freshman class.
The Commodores went 36-25-1 in 2017, and won a fourth NCAA Regional title in five years before bowing out to Oregon State in the NCAA Super Regional in Corvallis, Ore. The Vandy Boys will be led by talented juniors Patrick Raby and Julian Infante. Raby started 16 games last season and went 10-4 with a 2.73 ERA. The right-hander's strong summer continued for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team as he logged 19 1/3 innings and did not allow any earned runs in six games for the red, white and blue. He went 3-0 and was the winning pitcher in the winner-take-all game five of the 41st USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series. Infante took a giant step forward in 2017 and led the squad with 66 RBI. He hit .315 and clubbed 11 home runs to go along with 16 doubles.
Joining Infante are junior infielders Ethan Paul, Connor Kaiser and Alonzo Jones, and junior outfielder Stephen Scott. Joining them are sophomores JJ Bleday, Harrison Ray and Ty Duvall, who all logged meaningful time around the diamond as freshman in 2017. A number of the position players had strong summer campaigns, including Paul and Scott who hit over .300 for Orleans in the Cape Cod League. Other position players returning for the Commodores include junior outfielder Walker Grisanti, redshirt sophomore Kiambu Fentress and sophomore Alex Brewer.
Starters Drake Fellows, Chandler Day and Maddux Conger all return for Scott Brown's pitching staff. Fellows went 3-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 16 games (10 starts) last year. The sophomore racked up 68 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings. Day started 12-of-13 games he appeared in and went 7-2 with a 3.78 ERA. The junior finished second on the team with seven wins a year ago. Another junior, Conger started three of the 15 games he pitched in last year. Sophomores Zach King and Jackson Gillis figure to play important roles for the Dores in '17 as both left-handers kept opponents under a .180 batting average last year. Other returning pitchers include senior Paxton Stover, redshirt sophomores Justin Wilson and AJ Franklin, and sophomores Michael Sandborn and Reid Schaller.
Joining Vanderbilt's returners is the huge freshman class that includes 10 pitchers and eight position players. New arms to the program are David Bates, Corbin Brooksbank, Aaron Brown, Tyler Brown, Jake Eder, Hugh Fisher, Joe Gobillot, Mason Hickman, Erik Kaiser and Justin Willis. Incoming position players include Garrett Blaylock, Philip Clarke, Cooper Davis, Pat DeMarco, Jayson Gonzalez, Hayden Leatherwood, Austin Martin and Tyler Solomon.
Vanderbilt's practice schedule will go from Tuesday through Saturday until October 12 when the team's annual Black & Gold Series begins. Fans are welcome to attend any of the Commodores' fall practices outside of home football Saturdays (September 9, September 16, September 23 and October 7). The team will be on the field at approximately 4:00 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and around 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays at Hawkins Field. Follow @VandyBaseball on twitter for updates.