11 errors, 35 runs allowed, and three blowout losses. All things considered, this weekend could have gone a lot better for Tim Corbin's Commodores.
Vanderbilt baseball kicked off their season with a three-game sweep at the hands of #4 Stanford, leading just half an inning in a matchup that matched two potential College World Series teams. The Diamond 'Dores played an uncharacteristically sloppy game in the field and their young pitching staff got battered by a superior team in Palo Alto. None of Vandy's starters finished the series with an ERA under 10.00.
It was the first look at a team that had to replace several players from last year's groundbreaking squad - 11 of which are playing in the minors this year. As has become tradition in recent years, Corbin threw his youngsters into the fire with a season-opener against one of the country's best teams. The results weren't encouraging, but they'll give this team some big-game experience early in an important season for the 'Dores.
At the plate, much-hyped freshman Chris Harvey earned the starting spot as designated hitter and started strong with a pair of hits in his first NCAA game before an 0-5 performance (three strikeouts) bit him in his second. Spencer Navin started at catcher and showed off strong patience and the ability to put the ball in play despite a 1-9 performance.
Vince Conde looked shaky after winning the third base battle this preseason. The freshman committed three errors in six attempts on the hot corner and dealt with nerves throughout the series. He also turned in a 1-7 performance at the plate before getting pulled for sophomore Joel McKeithan.
However, the Commodores' biggest struggles came on the mound, where Kevin Ziomek, Tyler Beede, and Sam Selman were pegged as the team's weekend starters. Ziomek allowed 10 baserunners in only 3.1 innings of work and struggled with his control, two uncharacteristic mistakes after a stellar freshman year. Beede, who spurned $2.5 million from the Toronto Blue Jays to come to Vanderbilt, also struggled - though part of his problems can be traced to porous defense that allowed four unearned runs in his 4.1 innings of work.
Selman, this team's wild card, couldn't stem the bleeding after Vandy went 0-2 in their first two games. The strong-armed Texan suffered through a four-error, eight-run second inning that saw Vanderbilt's only lead dissipate in an instant. He allowed 12 runs in total through his five innings, but half were unearned.
In all, it was a terrible start for a young team that got thrown into the fire early. This team will have to show that they can build off of hardships and turn an 0-3 start into a learning experience. Things will get easier in the coming weeks. Vanderbilt won't play another team of Stanford's caliber until they open up SEC play at Florida. However, this weekend's result showed just how far this team needs to go in order to get back to Omaha.
AoG's prestigious pitching and batting awards after the jump...
The Henry Rowengartner Hot-Ice Excellence in Pitching Award Goes to...
No one. When the team's starting rotation fails to post a single-digit ERA as a whole, awards are the least of your concerns. Will Clinard had the best weekend of anyone, pitching a scoreless inning and allowing no baserunners. Vanderbilt's staff showed their age in the season opener, but they'll only get better as 2012 wears on.
The Clu Haywood "How's your wife and my kids?" Destroyer of Pitchers Award Goes to...
Connor Harrell. "HD" started the season off with a pair of home runs, a double, and five RBI. He's currently batting in the 5/6/7 spot, but if he continues to roll last postseason's hot streak into 2012, he'll work his way even deeper into the heart of this team's order. Anthony Gomez had a great start to the season as well. He went 6-13 (all singles) with a pair of RBIs to continue his solid play at the top of the lineup.
So, there's your (abbreviated) recap. Award winners can pick up their custom-made plaques at the AoG main offices located in the main offices of Drew Fann's nursing home. Vanderbilt started the season off about as poorly as they could have, but big-time matchups early in the season are a hallmark of Tim Corbin's regime in Nashville. He'll have to get a young team up to SEC speed in a short amount of time, and a postseason-style matchup with one of the country's elite teams gave this squad some important experience, if nothing else.
The losses should drop Vanderbilt down the rankings considerably and start some grumblings over whether or not this is a rebuilding year. However, it's tough to glean too much from the beatdown when mental mistakes played such a role. Nervous pitchers and players led to poor control on the mound and a porous defense in the field. Both are mistakes that can be corrected - especially with this team's renowned coaching staff. While an aggregate 35-13 loss is...less than ideal...it's far from a death blow for the Commodores.