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Vanderbilt Baseball 2013: The Road to Omaha Begins Tonight

Today is the opening day of the 2013 college baseball season. Vanderbilt kicks things off with a weekend series against Long Beach State at Hawkins Field.

The 2013 Commodores entered the fall with incredible momentum. Though they didn't start 2012 the way they would have liked, they ended it as one of the hottest teams in the country. Halfway through last season, an NCAA tournament bid was all but impossibly out of reach. The team persevered and delivered a remarkable run that earned them a two seed in the Raleigh regional, where they would push NC State to the regional finals, only to sputter at the wrong time and fall just short in the final innings. No matter, what had looked to be a disappointing rebuilding year became one of the most exciting midseason turnarounds in Vanderbilt sports. The Commodores ended the season ranked 22nd in the country.

There were some inevitable losses to the MLB Draft:

  • LHP Sam Selman (second round to the Kansas City Royals)
  • RHP Drew Verhagen (fourth round to the Detroit Tigers)
  • SS Anthony Gomez (sixth round to the Miami Marlins)
  • RHP Will Clinard (nineteenth round to the Detroit Tigers)

... to transfer:

  • IF Josh Lee
  • IF/DH Connor Castellano

... to graduation:

  • C Drew Fann
  • IF Riley Reynolds

... and to concentrate on school:

  • OF Will Johnson

The losses could have been greater, had both outfielders Mike Yastrzemski (thirtieth round selection of the Seattle Mariners) and Connor Harrell (thirty-first round selection of the Detroit Tigers) not put off their professional careers for one more chance at glory in Omaha.

In addition, Vanderbilt saw two fantastic assistant coaches in Derek Johnson and Josh Holliday move on to new opportunities. Holliday left his role as the hitting coach to become the head coach at Oklahoma State. Johnson, widely considered the best pitching coach in college baseball (and maybe at any level), became the minor league pitching coordinator for the Chicago Cubs. Coach Corbin brought in two highly regarded replacements in Travis Jewett, previously at Arizona State, and Scott Brown, previously at St. John's. Jewett will be the Commodores hitting coach and recruiting coordinator, while Brown will be the new pitching coach.

Adding to the return of Yaz and Harrell was Vanderbilt's second consecutive #1 ranked recruiting class:

  • RHP Walker Buehler (fourteenth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • RHP Carson Fulmer (fifteenth round by the Boston Red Sox)
  • OF Rhett Wiseman (twenty-fifth round by the Chicago Cubs)
  • OF Xavier Turner (thirty-fourth round by the Boston Red Sox)
  • RHP Patrick Delano (thirty-fifth round by the Boston Red Sox)
  • INF Dansby Swanson (thirty-eighth round by the Colorado Rockies)
  • RHP Tyler Ferguson
  • INF Tyler Campbell
  • RHP Luke Stephenson
  • INF Kyle Smith
  • RHP Chris Raasch

Currently, eighteen (!) of the thirty-five players listed on the Commodores 2013 roster have been selected in the MLB Draft over the last few years. Taking the sharp growth rate the team showed in the second half of last season, the tremendous amount of young talent on the roster, the poise and experience of the veterans and the leadership at the top in Coach Corbin, it is easy to see why Baseball America (2nd), USAToday/ESPN (8th), Collegiate Baseball (3rd), the NCBWA (4th), and Perfect Game (3rd) all had Vanderbilt highly ranked in their preseason polls.

The Opening Weekend Rotation

Vanderbilt Long Beach St.
Friday, February 15th
L Kevin Ziomek vs. R Jon Maciel
Saturday, February 16th
R Tyler Beede vs. R Shane Carle
Sunday, February 17th
R T.J. Pecoraro vs. L Landon Hunt

Probable Lineup

  1. 2B - Tony Kemp
  2. RF - Mike Yastrzemski
  3. C - Spencer Navin
  4. 1B - Conrad Gregor
  5. CF - Connor Harrell
  6. SS - Joel McKeithan
  7. 3B - Vince Conde
  8. DH - Rhett Wiseman
  9. LF - Jack Lupo

For a considerably more in depth preview of the 2013 VandyBoys, check out @VUHawkTalk's series (the lineup was based entirely off his prediction):