Oct. 11, 2013
Nashville, Tenn. -
Vanderbilt opens fall practice Monday night at Hawkins Field with the team's annual Black & Gold Series set for November 14, 15 and 17.
The Commodores are looking to replace a lot from last year's record-setting, Southeastern Conference champion team. Gone are senior leaders Connor Harrell and Mike Yastrzemski, ace lefty Kevin Ziomek and SEC Player of the Year Tony Kemp. Spencer Navin will not be behind the plate after signing with the Dodgers and Conrad Gregor now plays first base in the Houston Astros organization. Replacing those personalities will be next to impossible and finding new players to fill in the stats those players left behind will be tough.
The offense will be looking to replace 445 hits (64% of 2013's total), 19 home runs (46%) and 347 runs (76%). But the cupboard is certainly not bare as head coach Tim Corbin heads into his 12th season at Vanderbilt. All-Americans Tyler Beede and Brian Miller are back for their junior campaigns. Two freshman All-Americans return as well in Xavier Turner and Carson Fulmer.
The left side of the infield returns with Vince Conde joining Turner. On the right side, two familiar names will look to use the fall to solidify their standings with Zander Wiel at first and Dansby Swanson at second. Athletic sophomore Tyler Campbell will push for time at shortstop and second base. Switch-hitting Ro Coleman adds depth to the middle infield with freshmen Aubrey McCarty, Penn Murfee and Tyler Green adding depth to the corner infield positions. The outfield competition will be wide open with the departures of long-time starters Yastrzemski and Harrell along with Lupo. John Norwood, Rhett Wiseman and Kyle Smith all started games for the Dores in the outfield last season and have a leg up on freshmen outfielders Bryan Reynolds, Drake Parker and Nolan Rogers. A healthy Will Cooper will also be back in the mix after missing the majority of last season. Behind the plate junior Chris Harvey is the only upperclassman on the roster with freshman Jason Delay and Karl Ellison.
Pitching again looks to be a strength for Vanderbilt led by Beede - who set the school record for single-season wins last year with 14 - and Brian Miller - the school's all-time saves holder. Unlike the offense, the pitching staff nearly returns everyone from last year's squad that posted a 2.76 ERA and 520 strikeouts. Sophomores Fulmer, Walker Buehler and Tyler Ferguson will all be looking to expand their roles after solid freshman seasons. Lefty Philip Pfeifer and senior T.J. Pecoraro will both be in the mix for a spot in the starting rotation as well. Juniors Jared Miller and Adam Ravenelle posted solid summers in the Cape Cod League and join seniors Steven Rice and Keenan Kolinsky in the bullpen. Rice was named the Reliever of the Year in the New England Collegiate Baseball League this past summer. Two redshirt freshmen in Pat Delano and Luke Stephenson will be in a battle for innings in the bullpen. An already experienced staff will get a boost from the freshman class led by Jordan Sheffield. The right-hander from Tullahoma, Tenn. was sidelined during his senior season of high school with Tommy John surgery but brings a wealth of talent to West End. Lefties John Kilichowski, Ryan Johnson and Ben Bowden join right-hander Hayden Stone as the new arms on campus. Another intriguing arm is McCarty, who is a switch hitting, switch pitcher throwing with both arms.
The Commodores are expected to be on the field at 9 p.m. Monday night with fans welcomed to attend. Practices Tuesday-Friday are tentatively scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Fans wanting to attend the practices may enter Hawkins Field via the gate on Jess Neely Drive on the first base side of the stadium.