Friday, May 22, 2009

Vanderbilt/Arkansas Preview (Such as it is)

Vanderbilt has got a tremendous opportunity tomorrow against the Razorbacks. Arkansas will be playing their 4th game in as many days after beating the Florida Gators 10-7 for the second time in the tournament. The match up between the 7th seeded Razorbacks and the 8th seeded Commodores was not what anyone was expecting when the field was finalized last Saturday. Still, Vanderbilt has played themselves into the driver's seat by wining their first 2 games, all the while almost entirely preserving their pitching staff. That Vanderbilt's first two starters gave them 16 innings has kept the cupboard well stocked for Coach Corbin.

Vanderbilt has used 7 pitchers, but no one other than ace Mike Minor and freshman Sonny Gray have pitched more than 2/3 of an inning. According to the Tennessean's Evan Dexler, Corbin is deciding "between sophomore Caleb Cotham (5-5, 5.05 ERA) and junior Drew Hayes (4-3, 5.74)." Cotham worked .2 innings against South Carolina, but faced just 2 batters and threw a paltry 5 pitches. I would guess Corbin goes with Hayes and saves Cotham for either Saturday's second game against the Razorbacks, or Sunday against the winner of the Georgia/LSU series (if UGA wins, they advance to the championship).

Either way, Corbin has a deep bench to pull from, including senior Nick Christiani, who is 5-5 in 16 games and 8 starts with a 4.94 ERA. While Nick has struggled in SEC play, going just 2-3 in 9 games and 3 starts with a 7.71 ERA, he has a lot of experience, and can be an inning eater should the team get into trouble tomorrow. In fact, I would bet that whomever Corbin decides not to start, will watch Christiani go in before he does should the starter get in trouble early.

The Commodores have gotten this far, thanks not only to their pitchers, but because of the guy calling the game behind the plate, Andrew Giobbi. The catcher has gone a mind-boggling 7-8 with 3 RBIs, and 2 home runs. CF Jonathan White has also emerged again in Hoover, going 5-8 with 2 runs (including the game-winner against the Gamecocks). Finally, RF Steve Liddle has also been productive, going 3-8. The other 6 Commodores starters have managed just 3 hits on 45 at-bats (an average of .068). If Vanderbilt is going to advance, someone other than Giobbi, White, and Liddle are going to have to step up. Casali is poised to do some damage, going 3 for 7 in Vanderbilt's 2 game sweep of Arkansas (the 3rd game was canceled due to rain) in Fayetteville. It also wouldn't surprise me to see CTC shake up the line-up and put Joe Loftus in for Alex McClure in left, after Loftus went 4-10 against the Razorbacks, and 1-1 as a pinch-hitter in the win over South Carolina.

The Razorbacks pitching staff is pretty depleted having already played 3 games heading into their showdown with Vanderbilt tomorrow. The 7 Arkansas pitchers who have not thrown in Hoover, have a combined 3 starts between them, and 4 have thrown less than 10 innings all year. Knowing very little about the boys from Fayetteville, I surmise based on the roster that senior Justin Wells will get the call tomorrow morning. He's started just 1 game all year, but went 2-1 with a 4.23 ERA in 22 appearances, and 44.2 innings pitched.

Arkansas' offense has been efficient in their 3 games, stranding just 20 base-runners in 28 innings. The keys to the Razorbacks' offense is lead-off hitter and RF Chase Leavitt, who has gone 5-13 in Hoover, and has a .307 average this season. Leavitt has also scored 3, and drove in 2. The most dangerous hitter in the line-up has been Zach Cox, who on top of playing third base, and going 7-11 scoring 3 and driving in 4, pitched 2 innings to close out the Gators earlier today (allowing no runs, no hits, no walks, and striking out 1 in the 6 batters he faced). Cox entered the tournament hitting .270. Finally, second basemen Bo Bigham has helped the Razorback cause (moving up in the line-up in each game) going 5-12, and scoring 3 runs. Bo was just a .200 hitter before getting to Hoover. Hopefully for the Commodores, he'll return to midseason form soon.

Tomorrow should be a great day. If I were you, I'd turn down the TV (FSN at 11am EDT, 10 CDT), turn up Joe Fisher, and keep hitting refresh on this page as I will be live-blogging the game(s). Also, be sure to follow updates from Hoover on Twitter and on the VU Commodores sports blog.

Until tomorrow, I am OUT.

1 comment:

Austen said...

Looking forward to the live blogging - nice post today.