VU Baseball: Rallies, Records, and…Rodents?
The 2011 Vanderbilt baseball season was one for the books. After going 21-8 in conference play, the Commodores won their second SEC championship and advanced to the College World Series for the first time in university history. They made it to the semifinals, ending the year with a 0.724 winning percentage – the second highest in program history – and saw twelve players drafted to the Major Leagues – the single highest in SEC history.
Needless to say, the 2011 team was a tough act to follow, and, after losing a third of their members to the pros, the Commodores welcomed the #1 recruiting class in the country and got right back to work. The season got off to a rocky 7-15 start, but if we know anything about Vanderbilt sports teams, we know they don’t stay down for long. As the season progressed, fans witnessed a dramatic improvement, and by April, the Commodores were – I apologize ahead of time – knocking it out of the park. They finished the regular season by winning five of their last six conference series, defeating Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss, then #4-ranked LSU, and #3 Kentucky.
So what sparked the revolution? While there are many theories out there, a small part of the Commodores’ unexpected turnaround might be attributed to an unexpected source: Chance the Rally Beaver. This unofficial mascot (a gift to freshman pitcher Brian Miller from his mother) appeared in the sixth inning of every game this season to give the ‘Dores that extra push. Chance, along with the never-say-die work ethic of our absurdly talented players and the strong leadership of head coach Tim Corbin, helped spark a 15-6 run at the end of regular season play.
The ‘Dores then charged into the SEC tournament with strong momentum and a number 5 seed. They won their first four games, including a dramatic comeback to defeat #2 Florida in the semifinals. That particular battle featured a mind-blowing triple steal and landed Vanderbilt the NCAA record for most bases stolen in a single inning (six).
After advancing to the conference finals, the Commodores made their 11th appearance in the NCAA tournament. They took their regional bracket down to the wire, losing to North Carolina State in the final game by two runs and finishing the season with the same grit and ever-present sense of possibility the fans have come to expect from this remarkable team.
The 2012 baseball season capped off what some have called the most successful year in Vanderbilt athletics’ history. In October, the women’s cross country team won its first SEC title before finishing 6th in the NCAA tournament. Three basketball Commodores – Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins, and Festus Ezili – will be among the 60 college players at the 2012 Draft Combine in Chicago on June 7-8. The women’s bowling team advanced to the national semifinals and finished their season as the third-ranked team in the country. Rising sophomore Chrissy Oberg recently became the first Vanderbilt swimmer to qualify for the Olympic trials since the university’s program was resurrected in 2006. Excitement for the 2012 football season continues to build, and home season ticket sales have already surpassed totals for the entire 2011 season.
Yes, the 2010-2011 season was one for the books, but the 2011-12 season may just have topped it. Get some rest, sports fans, because the 2012-13 athletic season is just around the corner, and you won’t want to miss it!