It's been a while since we've posted on VSL. A lot has happened: Casey Hayward got drafted in the 2nd round by the Packers, Tim Fugger got drafted by the Colts in the 7th round, and Brandon Barden signed a free agent deal with the hometown Titans. That's all great. But it's baseball season and despite a sluggish start, the Commodores are doing everything they can to claw their way back to post-season eligibility.
Tim Corbin's team took a big step towards submitting mount-.500 by doing something no other team had done all season: take a series from the #1 Kentucky Wildcats. Vanderbilt's 6-1 win came with major fireworks as the Commodores exploded for 5 runs in the bottom half of the 8th to reclaim a lead they had surrendered in the top half of the same inning. With with Commodores leading 2-1 and the bases loaded, senior Connor Harrell, who has struggled most of the year but who had been hitting the ball better lately, delivered the knockout punch in dramatic fashion, sending a towering home-run over the fence in left center. As I said on Twitter, Joe Fisher's call coaxing the ball over the wall is another classic from The Voice and one we will be sure to post as soon as it's up on VUCommodores.com (hint, hint).
The win today lifted the Commodores to 21-23 (9-12 in conference) with 10 games to play. The Commodores will play 6 of their next 7 away from Hawkins field with 3 games in Knoxville, 1 game at home against Louisville, and then 3 in Baton Rogue, before wrapping up the regular season against Ole Miss, May 17-19. VUHawkTalk, the proprietor of When [It] Strikes Me and VSLNation's Vanderbilt Baseball guru (and fellow Dutchmen), and I agree that the Commodores realistically need to finish this season 7-3 to feel optimistic about finishing the year at .501 or better (the magic number for NCAA Tournament eligibility). That won't be easy, but definitely doable for a team that should have some confidence after taking down the #1 in the country.
The SEC Tournament's field has expanded from 8 to 10 teams, meaning Vanderbilt is still above the cut line. With their loss today, Tennessee dropped to 7-14 in conference and is 2 back of both Georgia and Vanderbilt for the final spot in the field. The dynamics of the SEC race make next weekend's showdown between in-state rivals that much more important. For the Commodores, they need wins to inch closer to .500. Winning next weekend's series in Knoxville is critical if Vanderbilt has any chance to overcome their early (and mid) season struggles to get into the NCAA Tournament. For Tennessee, losing the series to the Commodores would all but eliminate them from the SEC Tournament. Losers of 7 straight, the Volunteers will be a desperate team next weekend. Desperate teams are dangerous, especially given the history between these two squads.
There's still baseball left to be played and Tim Corbin's Commodores aren't done. Attention must be paid...