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2021 Baseball Schedule Preview

In which I take an honest look at our chances in every series. No analytics were harmed in the production of this article.

College World Series - Michigan v Vanderbilt - Game Three Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Seeing as the most common comment on the shooty hoops game threads is some variant of “When does Baseball season start?,” and the bulk of the schedule was released this week, I will begin our 2021 Vanderbilt Diamond Dores coverage with “A Look at our Schedule.”

Listen, I do not fault you for thinking, saying, screaming, or tattooing across your back the phrase “When does Baseball season start?” Feetball season was a dystopian nightmare matched only in its horror by how boring and predictable it all was. There was some hope for shooty hoops (no, I don’t know why, as we were pretty bad last year, lost our two best players to the NBA draft, and didn’t exactly have a blue ribbon, strong-ass-offer type freshman class on the horizon), but after that game with the Woo Pig Sooiees, and Stackhouse’s pissy rant blaming everyone but himself, that hope has been crushed into tiny lumps of coal. Coal that will not be given to Bob Cratchit, because then said coal would still contain a glimmer of hope. Nope, this is pure-grade stocking coal, only to be used in the blackening of our collective Victorian child laborer’s lungs as we dive into the soot-filled chimney of another winless in the SEC season.

I may have gotten off topic.

Luckily, some of my favorite things to do are write about baseball, watch baseball, cheer on baseball, brown paper packages tied up with string, and to analyze/criticize baseball manager decisions at a granular level (even if said manager is the best in the game, the best we have ever had, the best we could ever hope for, and should continue to coach the Diamond Dores until the sun explodes and Earth is a lifeless husk).

Earlier this week, the SEC Schedule was released. I nearly wrote this post then, but openly wondered on the Twatters whether this meant we would have no OOC games. Then, a few days later, we were told we would open on February 19th with Wright State. Then, crickets. As such, we might as well look at the schedule, series by series, and apply a “Confidence Level.” I can update this post when the remaining three OOC series are scheduled.

Nah, we need to be happy before we read further. Watch Dansby “The Mansby” Swanson narrate:

The 2021 Vanderbilt Diamond Dores Schedule

(*Note: The three open weekends before conference play begins will be filled with OOC games... we just don’t know who yet.)

Week One (2/19-2/21): vs. Wright State

2020 Record: 6-9 (nice). The Wright State Dog Raiders played a brutal 2020 OOC Schedule, facing Clanga thrice, The Chuggers thrice, Auburn thrice, and even Louisville once. They went 3-8 against those teams (beating Louisville and taking 2 out of 3 from The Chuggers), which means our boys should not take them lightly.

Player to Watch: #23 C Sr. Konner “The Plate” Piotto. The senior backstop from Abootsford, British Columbia, CA (not even kidding... a Canadian from a place named “Aboot Town;” damn, you’ve got to love baseball), absolutely raked in 2020s Covid-shortened season, putting up a .333/.417/.452 slash line with 5 2Bs. The dude even went 3-3 on the base paths. Though “The Plate” was a senior last year, he chose to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, so we’ll have to reckon with him.

*Note: #10 OF RS Jr. Quincy Hamilton was not going to give away his shot at additional eligibility, either. He’s really the only other Wright State Dog Raider we have to worry about at the plate.

Confidence Level: High.

Week Two (2/26-2/28): Open

Week Three (3/5-3/7): Open

Week Four (3/12-3/14): Open

SEC Conference Play Begins

Week Five (3/19-3/21): vs. The South Cackalacky Game Penises

2020 Record: 12-4. The Penises closed out last year on a 5 game win streak, and though their record would at first glance paint a picture that they are better than they have been of late, those five games were against Furman, Cornell, and The Citadel. Had they beaten Cornell’s all male acapella group, Here Comes Treble, I would have been more impressed.

Player to Watch: #28 Jr. INF/C Wes “Used to be Mel” Clarke. This Angel is not in the outfield, though he sends a lot of balls over the fencing they’ve set up out there. He hit 8 dingers in 16 games last year, so, you know, give him a healthy mix of the off-speed stuff.

Confidence Level: High.

Week Six (3/26-3/28): at Mizzourah (SEC-Big XII Challenge Week)

2020 Record: 11-5. Similar to the Penises, the Big XII Tigers closed strong, with a 7 game winning streak. Two of those wins were against fellow Big XII foes Texas and Oklahoma, but the remaining 5 were against Western Illinois and Northern Illinois, respectively. The season was cancelled before they could play Eastern and Southern Illinois, apparently.

Player to Watch: #21 RS Jr. Brandt “$1000 to Watch” Belk. The Pepperdine transfer batted .457/.544/.652 in 16 games last year. Let’s just say he’s not that good and move on. Only one other Mizzourah Big XII Tiger starter hit over .300. They are who they always are. If they can pitch, they’re dangerous. Their pitching staff this year looks to be less than stellar.

Confidence Level: High.

Week Seven (4/2-4/4): at The Louisiana State Gumbo Bengals

2020 Record: 12-5. Ask LSU fans about last year’s team and watch them try to talk about literally anything else. With losses to Nichols and Eastern Kentucky, it’s easy to see why they were less than pleased. Beyond that, the only semi-tough games they scheduled were a three game set against Texas, Baylor, and OU, respectively. They went 1-2 in those games, beating Texas by a run.

Player to Watch: #0 Jr. RHP Jaden “Bobby” Hill. Though Hill appeared in only 4 games, and was LSU’s closer last year, he only surrendered one hit in 11 and 2/3 IP. As a freshman, he was sidelined with elbow troubles. He’s expected to be Yellow Shoe’s Friday starter this year, though, and MLB scouts are intrigued. He’s currently being mocked in the top 10 overall ( has him at #5 to the Orioles). He has a power arm and a filthy changeup. In short, a match-up between Rocker and Hill would be appointment viewing for everyone who considers themselves a baseball fan.

LSU normally has a murderer’s row at the plate. That wasn’t the case last year, so let’s hope that continues.

Confidence Level: High.

Week Eight (4/9-4/11): vs. The University of Georgia Ugga’s Balls Resting on a Tray of Ice

2020 Record: 14-4.

Player to Watch: NOT Emerson Hancock, thank Jebus. The Seattle Mariners got an absolute steal in Hancock at #6 overall. That man was unreal, and we no longer have to face him. We will also not have to face Cole Wilcox (3rd round, Padres). Be happy.

The best of their returning pitchers is likely #6 Jr. LHP C.J. “Royston Vasey” Smith (0-1, 3.32 ERA). He’s from Royston, GA where his parents run a “local shop... for locals.” If you get this reference, you win the internet for the day.

Georgia’s hitters are... fine (hat tip to #44 RS. So. OF Ben “LaGrange” Anderson who hit .414 in 2020)... but what made The Ugga’s Balls Resting on a Tray of Ice dangerous was the 1-2 punch of Hancock and Wilcox. Again, they’re no longer there. Be happy.

Confidence Level: High.

Week Nine (4/16-4/18): at THOSE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED

2020 Record: 15-2. Sorry, I had to go to their athletics website to write this section, and had to pause repeatedly to vomit.

Looking more closely at their 2020 schedule... oh God (runs to the bathroom to vomit some more). Deletes tab. Sorry... I just cannot look at that much orange any longer.

Player to Watch: Not LHP Garrett Crochet (1st round, White Sox), OF Alerick Soularie (2nd round, Twins), nor OF Zach “Charlie” Daniels (4th round, Astros). Seriously, last year’s Chuggers squad was likely their high water mark for a while.

Of their 2021 roster, I’d keep an eye on Central Arizona Juco transfer Jr. INF Liam “Geelong Dead” Spence (.346/.462/.462).

Not really, though. Like Ugga, the guys you legitimately need to worry about on The Chuggers’ squad are plying their wares professionally now.

Confidence Level: High.

Week Ten (4/23-4/25): vs. The Clanga State Whinin’ 11.7s

2020 Record: 12-4. Clanga opened 2020 with a 3 game sweep of the same Wright State Dog Raiders we will face this year. Wright State’s AD must be a masochist. Looking further, they took 2 of 3 from Oregon State (that’s good!), lost 2 of 3 against Long Beach State (that’s bad!), swept a 2 game set against Texas Tech (that’s good!), and lost a mid-week game to Texas Southern (that’s bad!). All in all, 2020 was a mixed bag for the Whinin’ 11.7s, as like their namesake, councilman Les Wynan, they should have done a little more winning, and a little less whinin’.

Player to Watch: #4 Sr. OF Rowdey “Roddy” Jordan (.308/.395/.338). Though Clanga’s lineup should be relatively defanged what with their double play duo of 2B Justin Foscue (1st round, Rangers), and SS Jordan Westburg (Supplemental 1st round, Orioles) moving on to the next level, they got a somewhat surprising senior returnee in Rowdey Roddy Jordan.

On the mound, their best returning starter is #28 Jr. LHP Christian “The Cloud” MacLeod (4-0, 0.86 ERA). The junior is expected to go in the first few rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft, as despite his average fastball velocity, his curveball is a true out pitch, and his change up is developing nicely. Have to assume he’ll get the ball on Fridays this year, and just like with LSU, the Rocker vs. MacLeod matchup will be appointment viewing.

Confidence Level: High, as a little known SEC bylaw forced them to give us all of their scholarships last year.

Week Eleven (4/30-5/2): at The Jortsville Jorts

2020 Record: 16-1. This is likely to be our toughest weekend of the year, as not only are the Jorts looking to be good this year, but we’ll have to spend a weekend in the uninhabitable hell hole that is Florida. Their most impressive series was a sweep of the Miami Hurricanes. Their only loss was to Florida State.

Player to Watch: #4 Jr. PF Jud “Fabulous” Fabian. Yes, that nickname is for Parlagi. Fabulous Fabian, though supremely talented and blessed with the power gene, has not exactly lit things up in his first two years of SEC play. In fact, he has a .250 cumulative batting average and a 22% K-rate (*note: he was markedly better as a sophomore, but nothing that’s setting the world on fire, as he hit .294/.407/.603 with 6 2Bs and 5 dingers). Might he be one of those “better as a pro than in college” guys? Certainly could be, or maybe MLB scouts are focusing too much on his loud tools and not enough on his lack of production. Either way, he’s the one to watch.

Fellow Jr. OF #1 Jacob Young is also a hitter to watch, as he batted .450 in last year’s shortened season.

Their pitching staff is pretty good, too (though not as dominant as ours), as they got two gifts in the form of Sr. RHP Tommy Mace (3-0, 1.67 ERA) and Sr. RHP Jack Leftwich (2-0, 4.15 ERA) returned to school after not being drafted in the truncated to 5 rounds 2020 MLB Draft. In a normal year, they’d be pitching in the minors. Instead, we have to deal with them again. So. LHP Hunter Barco (2-0, 1.40) will likely round out the starting rotation, and no, I’m not happy about that, either.

Confidence Level: Medium. They’re a fellow CWS favorite, and will likely be our toughest opponent. We will be the same for them.

Week Twelve (5/7-5/9): vs. The Ramajama Gumps

2020 Record: 16-1. The Gumps caught fire last year, but was it real, or was it a mirage?

I’ll go on record saying it was the latter, as they quite literally played no one last year. Their sole loss was to the David Lipscomb University Bisons. There’s no reason to point that out other than I never let an opportunity go by the wayside to point out that there is a university which doesn’t know the rules of pluralization.

Who did they beat? Northeastern, Alabama State, UNLV, UT-Martin, Empty S-U, Harvard, South Alabama, and The Bisons.

South Alabama is the best of that bunch. Again, I’d temper my expectations for the 2021 season, Gump fans.

Player to Watch: #4 So. LHP Connor “Before Lip” Prielipp (3-0, 0.00 ERA). Listen, I don’t care who you play, any time you surrender no runs in 4 starts against college competition, you get my eyebrow to raise. Sitting around 90mph with the fastball, Prielipp isn’t going to blow anything by you. Small sample size aside, you can’t argue with his results thus far. I’ll try to watch a few of his starts before this series to get a better handle on what we can expect.

Confidence Level: High.

Week Thirteen (5/14-5/16): at The Ole Piss Admiral Ackbars

2020 Record: 16-1. That makes three teams in a row who compiled 16-1 records in 2020. Of course, those numbers can be deceiving, as I explained earlier with the difference between The Jorts (all but dominant) and The Gumps (didn’t play anyone). So where do The Ackbars fit in?

Well, they did play some actual competition, as they took 2 of 3 from a seriously good Louisville Cardinals team of absolute dipshits (no, we will never forget the douche baggery of Luke Smith). They also beat a ranked ECU team. The rest of their schedule was typical OOC cupcakes, of course, but that is to be expected.

However, as you’ll see below, their 2020 squad was a talented veteran team, and their 2021 team, though still talented, will not be the same group.

Player to Watch: Not the entire left side of their infield: SS Anthony Servideo (3rd round, Orioles), 3B Tyler Keenan (4th round, Orioles).

Their best returning hitter is #9 Jr. OF Hayden “Baseball Name” Leatherwood (.361/.477/.639).

Their best returning pitcher is #17 Jr. RHP Gunnar “The Hog” Hoglund (3-0, 1.16 ERA). #26 Jr. LHP Doug Nikhazy (3-1, 2.35 ERA) is also a solid SEC starter. #16 So. RHP Derek “Dustin” Diamond (2-0, 3.48 ERA) returns, as well. Okay, their entire 2020 pitching staff returns. That’s not great for us. Still, it will be interesting to see what happens to their ERAs once they no longer have a stud SS hoovering up everything hit his way.

Confidence Level: Medium to High.

Week Fourteen (5/20-5/22): vs. The University of Kentucky Fightin’ Blue Balls

2020 Record: 11-6. Kentucky opened their season being swept by TCU, and did not schedule any other opponents of note. Still, they were also swept by UNC Wilmington. Oof.

Player to Watch: The Fightin’ Blue Balls did not lose anyone to the draft, but that was mostly because there wasn’t any draft eligible player on their team worthy of a lot of MLB scouting attention.

There is someone MLB teams will likely start watching pretty soon, though, and that’s #1 So. OF John “The Colossus” Rhodes. The Colossus was the Collegiate Baseball News 2020 Co-Freshman of the Year, and his numbers tell the whole story. Rhodes slashed .426/.485/.672 with 10 2Bs.

On the mound, no one really scares you, but I’d keep my eye on #50 Sr. LHP Mason Hazelwood (2-1, 1.64 ERA), as we always have a tough time with crafty lefties.

Confidence Level: High.

In the coming weeks, I will give you position previews, position battles, rotation battles, and open the pre-season mail bag.

Remaining questions:

  1. Who will we schedule for the three open weeks before conference play starts?
  2. Will there be any mid-week games against local opponents?
  3. Will you be able to handle the joy of the return of Kumar “White Castle” Rocker, Jack “Lights Out” Leiter, Ethan “The Maker of Fine Wooden Vermont Furniture” Smith, and the rest of our absurdly dominant pitching staff?
  4. Are you ready to be happy again?

Just under 4 weeks until we kick things off. Let’s do this.