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Series Preview: Commodores v. Flames

Like many recent seasons past, our first home OOC foe is a Major League Soccer team (the Chicago Fire).

Photo by Stephen Yang/Getty Images

#9 Vanderbilt Commodores (3-1) v. The University of Illinois-Chicago Flames—nee MLS Chicago Fire (2-2)

On the Bump

Friday 2/24 - 4pm CT

VU Junior RHP Kyle “The Movement” Wright (0-1, 5.40 ERA)

v. UIC Senior LHP Jake “The Snake” Dahlberg (0-0, 1.29 ERA)

The UIC senior is, undoubtedly, their ace, and showed as much in his first start. Against Prairie View A&M (motto: Yes, we exist!), the lefty went 7 IP, allowing 1 R, 4 H, 1 BB, and K’d 9 Prairie Dogs (I refuse to check what their actual nickname might be) in a no decision (that UIC would eventually lose).

Meanwhile, Kyle Wright had a rough outing in the season opener. The junior ace went 5 IP, allowing 3 R, 4 H, 3 BB, and K’d only 2 in our only loss of this young season. However, you can’t forget that Wright went 8-4 with a 3.09 ERA last season, and was neck and neck with Jordan Sheffield in the battle for staff ace. That he’s being talked about alongside Jeren Kendall as one of the handful of top players in the 2017 MLB draft this June should allow you to breathe a little more easily. Wright has a few more weeks to shake the rust off before SEC play opens against Ole Piss, and it is unwise to bet against him. I say he goes 6+ scoreless this afternoon.

Advantage: The Movement. I’ll take pedigree over recency bias any day.

Saturday 2/25 - 12pm CT

VU Sophomore RHP Patrick “Mad Dog” Raby (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

v. UIC RS Senior ???HP Jack “Handless” Anderson (0-0, 4.77 ERA)

Anderson Jacked around with the UNO Private Ears (pretty sure I’ve heard that is their name) for 5 and 2.3 IP, allowing 4 R (3 earned), 5 H, 3 BB, and K’d 6 Private Ears in a no decision (that UIC would eventually lose). As for his handedness, UIC refuses to list that on their player profiles*, so I can only assume he has no arms, and somehow projects the ball forward by kicking it, or spewing it forth from his mouth with great force. Either way, our hitters will have to make an adjustment.

*Upon further research, he is right handed, but seriously, try to find that on his player profile.

The Mad Dog evened the series up with USD in dominant fashion—picking right up where he left off last season. Raby threw 5 scoreless IP; allowed only 1 H and 3 BB; and K’d 4 in an 8-2 win (though it took three days to play).

Advantage: Mad Dog.

Sunday 2/26 - 1pm CT

VU Freshman RHP Drake “Safari Planet” Fellows (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

v. UIC Freshman RHP Jacob “The Snake-ob” Key (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

The Snake-ob, a freshman from nearby Murfreesboro, TN, ran through the Grambling State Grambling Wreck for 6 IP, allowing 2 R (1 earned), 2 H, 3 BB, and K’d 5. If you see an inordinate number of people wearing Empty SU Blue Raider Blue in the stands on Sunday, he’s why, as this will be a homecoming of sorts for Key.

Meanwhile, Drake (nee Brian) Fellows went all Safari Planet on the USD Toreros last Sunday in the rubber game that gave us the series win. After speaking briefly with a camel, Fellows went 6 strong innings, holding the denizens of the city that’s German for “a whale’s vagina” scoreless. USD never really threatened to score, either, as the Drake allowed only 2 H and 1 BB (while K-ing 5). One of the biggest question marks entering the season was who would follow Wright and Raby in the rotation. Last Sunday, Fellows wrote his name in that slot in pen.

Advantage: Safari Planet.

Additional Questions Answered in the First Week of Play

  1. Who will flank Jeren Kendall in the outfield?

RF: The man so nice they rhymed him thrice, freshman OF JJ Bleday. Though Bleday has batted only .250 in the first four games, he has looked the part of a roster mainstay. In the field, he plays like a veteran, and has likely the best arm of any outfielder on the team. At the plate, he just looks like he belongs, and will be a top of the order bat in the coming years. First of all, he has a .500 OBP (he has already worked 6 walks this year). He has an advanced approach at the plate, and doesn’t swing at bad pitches. Though only one of his 3 hits thus far has gone for extra bases, the power is there, and will make itself known in the near future. Think the tantalizing potential we all saw in Rhett Wiseman as a freshman, but as Bleday is a Floridian to Wiseman’s Mass-hole, he is substantially less raw. He should be in the starting lineup, in right field, every game.

LF: Ro “The Cooler” Coleman. It has taken a full three years for me to say it, but this year it’s true: Ro Coleman is the best option we have in left field. In his first few years, Corbin has tried to force the “spark plug” into the lineup, despite better options languishing on the bench. Now, Coleman looks like he is beginning to finally play smart baseball. With his improved defense and plate discipline, Ro can finally be an important asset to this team. This was hard to type, but it’s true. 2017 may just well be the year of the Ro-ster.

2. What will a post-Ben Bowden bullpen look like?

Pretty damned solid, really. If Drake Fellows continues to pitch like he did last Sunday, Corbs can safely slot Collin Snider as the set-up man, allowing Matthew Ruppenthal and his Magic Curvenball to close out all close games.

See you in the comments!*

*Though I will sprint home from work, it might take me a bit to join you in the comments.