Sept. 15, 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. --Vanderbilt baseball will open its fall practice schedule Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. with a vastly different team from a year ago.
This year's practice sessions will have a different look as eight offensive players with 1,348 starts between them are gone due to graduation or the draft.
The veteran core of the team is in the pitching staff with the entire weekend rotation back this year. Junior southpaw Mike Minor served as the ace of the USA Baseball National team over the summer and was named Summer Player of the Year by Baseball America. He will look to build upon last year's numbers when he went 7-3 with a 4.28 ERA. The Chapel Hill, Tenn. native is 16-4 in his career with a 3.72 ERA.
Sophomore righthander Caleb Cotham tied Minor for the team lead in wins a year ago, going 7-6 with a 4.50 ERA as the Saturday starter. Righthander Nick Christiani returns for his senior year after choosing not to sign with Cleveland after getting drafted in the 32nd round of June's draft. The New Jersey native went 6-3 with a 4.97 ERA and ended the year as the Sunday starter.
Sophomore right-hander Russell Brewer (4-3, 3.52 ERA) had eight saves a year ago as a redshirt freshman and continued that success in the Cape this summer notching 12 saves for Hyannis.
Also returning after serving in the bullpen a year ago are right-handers Drew Hayes (2-1, 3.51 ERA), Mark Lamm (1-0, 3.98 ERA), Chase Reid (4-0, 4.30 ERA) and Taylor Hill (5-2, 4.60 ERA). Southpaw Richie Goodenow (1-0, 4.22 ERA) served as the left-handed specialist a year ago and recorded 19 strikeouts in just 10.2 innings of work.
Gone are seven offensive starters from last year's team that went 41-22 and made the NCAA tournament for a school record third year in a row. Junior Andrew Giobbi is the top returning hitter after batting .332 with three homers, a team high 22 doubles and 42 RBI a year ago. Two other players who started at the end of last year, sophomore Steven Liddle (.310 batting average) and fifth-year senior Jonathan White (.286 batting average) also return.
To combat the mass exodus, the Commodore coaching staff brought in a recruiting class that should be considered as one of the best groups in the country when the rankings come out later in the fall.
The Commodores were able to bring in 13 of the 16 newcomers signed last fall and spring. Three players: infielder Anthony Hewitt (1st round, Philadelphia), Ryan Westmoreland (5th round, Boston) and Adam Milligan (7th round, Atlanta) decided to sign professional baseball contracts and forego their time at Vanderbilt.
Eight other newcomers were also drafted in June and are on campus this fall.
"We have a lot of new players and it will be a different feeling this year as opposed to the last couple of years," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "This will be a good opportunity to get an idea of which guys can come in and contribute right away. I expect some competitive battles for playing time across the board and I am excited to get things started."
The Commodores fall practice slate will culminate in the annual Black and Gold Series scheduled for Oct. 23, 24 and 26.