Friday, May 30, 2008

NCAA Baseball Tourney: Commodores Looking for New Tempo in Tempe

Vanderbilt takes on Oklahoma today at 5 pm EST in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Dores (40-20) are slated as the #2 seed in the Tempe Regional, behind host Arizona State (45-11), who beat us 18-6 in the second game of the season and carry a 35-3 home record into the tournament. Third-seeded OU (34-24-1) and fourth-seeded SUNY Stony Brook (34-24) fill out the rest of the bracket. This may well be the toughest regional grouping in the whole tournament, and is noteworthy because Vandy was assigned to Tempe at the eleventh hour by a selection committee that decided it was too "unbalanced" in RPIs. Take from that what you will, but the result is that Vandy will enter the postseason on the same field where they opened the regular season.

While I'm hopeful that we can handle Oklahoma in today's first-round game, one thing has become clear about this Vanderbilt team: you can't take anything for granted. After spending most of the season hovering around #15 in the polls, the Commies enter the NCAA Tournament reeling from a five-game losing streak to end the regular season and an 8-7 elimination loss to Ole Miss in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. The team is now ranked No. 21 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 24 by Collegiate Baseball, and appears to be approaching the postseason with an underdog mentality.

Coach Tim Corbin described the SEC Tournament as a "growing up" week for a lot of his team, and sounds hopeful that his guys will be well prepared for Tempe given the challenges they have faced throughout the season, which include a number of key injuries. CTC emphasized in yesterday's interview that starting pitching will be key. Vandy's young relievers have performed consistently well throughout the season, but getting to the 6th or 7th inning without giving up a rash of runs is something Vanderbilt has struggled with of late. Redshirt freshman Caleb Cotham takes the mound against Oklahoma this afternoon hoping to buck that trend.

Suffice it to say, for Vanderbilt to have a chance in this tournament, the bats will have to get going. Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty, and Dominic de la Osa have about as good of an upside as any trio of hitters in the country, but haven't been able to put it all together at the same time the way many had expected. This weekend would be a good time for them to, you know, go ahead and do that. According to CTC, if the Commodores can get into OU's bullpen by busting it open early, they stand a good chance to come away with a win. Doing so is critical if Vandy hopes to take down ASU and advance from the double-elimination regional.

Check out the Vanderbilt and Oklahoma previews of today's game, and tune in to the free live webcasts all weekend long. Go Commies.

1 comment:

Bobby O'Shea said...

Price Wows Pedro in Class A game

Also, some context from last year's opening weekend:

Only 7 of the 16 1 Seeds advanced, while 5 of the 16 2 Seeds advanced.