Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Morning After: Vanderbilt Heads Home From Omaha

Let the obituaries on the season begin. There is no doubt the Commodores and Tim Corbin had their most successful season in the program's history. The team made their first trip to the College World Series, and had a deep run at that. Their 54 wins was a school record, as was their 12 losses. 12 Commodores were drafted by Major League franchises, an SEC record. But that doesn't change the disappointment Tim Corbin, his team, and Vanderbilt fans are having today.

In the end, the Gators were a hurrdle the Commodores couldn't overcome. Kevin O'Sullivan's team is very, very good. They are better than the Commodores. The wisdom of Bill Parcells aside, I don't think the Gators are 5-1 better than Vanderbilt, but they are better. Baseball is a game of opportunities. Successful teams take advantage of their opportunities and get that big hit (or big out) when they really need it. Against every other team in America, the Commodores were able to do just that. Unfortunately, they weren't against the Gators.

Much has been made about the fact that in their 6 meetings, Vanderbilt and Florida each scored a total of 27 runs. While that stat is interesting and designed to show just how even these teams are, I take little solace in it. The Commodores had opportunities against the Gators that they could never cash in on. Vanderbilt led the 4-2 in the 6th before the rains came in the 1st game of their 3 game series in Nashville. When play resumed, the Gators outscored Vanderbilt 4-1 and won the game 6-5. Then, in the rubber-match of their 3-game set, the Commodores stranded runners in scoring position with 0 outs in both the 10th and 11th innings in a 3-3 game. Unable to push the winning run across, the Gators sent a 3-run bomb over the wall in right in the 12th. Gators win 6-3. Then yesterday, the Commodores clawed their way back, tying the game at 4 in the 8th inning, before allowing the Gators to get 2 back in the bottom half of that inning. The Commodores loaded the bases with less than 2 outs in both the 7th and 8th, but were only able to push across 3 runs. One more base-hit and the Commodores might have finally been able to get over the hump. Alas, Florida's defense, while shaky at times in the late-innings allowing the Commodores to claw back, made a play. Connor Harrell, unquestionablely the offensive player of CWS for Vanderbilt, lined out after the Gator shortstop Nolan Fontana made a very good diving catch. That ball gets through, and perhaps we're getting ready for another elimination game today.

Much has been made about Corbin's decision to send Sonny Gray out to pitch the 8th. Having already thrown 123 pitches, many wonder whether the Commodore ace was "done." According to Jeff Lockridge in today's Tennessean, the Smyrna native demanded the ball. Asked about the decision, Coach Corbin said: "I don’t care what the number of pitches was . . . He wanted to go back out there. That’s all there was to it. You’re not going to take the ball away from him or else you’re going to fight him.” Vanderbilt didn't lose the game because Sonny Gray started the 8th. While there might be an argument that once the 1st Gator reached base Corbin should have gone to his bullpen, the breakdown in the 8th was defensive, not pitching. Jason Esposito was unable to handle Florida's sacrifice attempt, putting runners on 1st and 2nd. Then, another Gator reached when Sonny mishandled an excellent bunt by Florida between the mound and 3rd. Bases loaded, no one out - Sonny's day was done. It's not as if Sonny got hammered; a single and 2 misplayed bunts chased him. Vanderbilt's bullpen is great and was nothing short of dominate in Omaha. I understand turning the game over to them in the 8th, but just because a decision didn't work out doesn't mean it was the wrong decision.

It was a disappointing end to a great season. For anyone interested, Baseball America's Aaron Fitt has a great recap of yesterday's action that is definitely worth a read.

For those of you in the Nashville area, you are invited to greet the team as they return from Omama this afternoon. The Commodores will be arriving to campus at approximately 1:15 p.m. Saturday behind the west side of Memorial Gym by the Parmer Field House.

What do you think, VSLNation? I know you've got thoughts, let's hear'em.


AspenVU said...

Final 4 and ranked top 5 all year. 3 SEC east teams will be in the top 4 final poll. That was fun. All seasons end.

Andrew VU '04 said...

Great season, but it was absolutely the wrong decision to go with Gray in the 8th. Aside from the pitch count (which should be enough... even Roy Halladay wouldn't be sent out after throwing 130 pitches), Gray had been struggling through most of the game, and his control just wasn't there. He should have been pulled in the 6th, really. When you've got a bullpen as fantastic as we had (I'm using the past tense because most of them will be in the minors soon), you have to trust them. I'm not saying the 8th was Gray's fault, as clearly the problem was Esposito--who I can only assume is sitting in a corner crying right now--folding under pressure and Chuck Knoblach-ing a changeup to Westlake on a simple sac bunt, but Corbin made the wrong call in that situation. Let's go back to his quote about Gray in the 8th: "He wanted to go back out there. That’s all there was to it. You’re not going to take the ball away from him or else you’re going to fight him.” Well, Tim, that's what a manager does. The pitcher will always believe he can go one more inning, one more batter, etc, but it's your job to make the tough decisions and fight your ace if need be. Sweet sassy mollassy.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Andrew......same bad decision used with price yrs your team in total.......they brought you this far....,,no I in team...ake the ball..tell him he did his job...and now let your team mates do their job!!!

Anonymous said...

Tim is the man at Vandy. Hehas brought us to a powerhouse baseball school. He went with his best decission and this time it just didn't work. Was it a bad call? In my opinion, Tim does not make bad calls. Sometimes they just do not work. It was a great season for the dores and many more to come. Its great to be gold!!!!

AspenVU said...

How were we a 6 seed and the 2 ACC schools much higher? They could not even win the SEC West.

Anonymous said...

Just as hacks who couldn't win a local karaoke contest at a Ramada Inn lounge in any random small midwestern town, go on "american idol" (which still sucks by the way) and actually get votes from millions of viewing sheep...sometimes the most talented out there in the world don't get the biggest prize.

Florida has a great team as does South Carolina as does Vandy. I thinks next year's team will be surprisingly good even in a "rebuilding" mode.