Thursday, December 13, 2012

SxSE: Vanderbilt Commodores Baseball, 1886-2012

After nearly a hundred years of futility on the diamond, Vanderbilt has become a solid NCAA Regional program: They can be reasonably expected to go to a Regional each season, and could go beyond.  As long as they continue to keep Tim Corbin happy, the future looks good.  In the past 10 years the Commodores have averaged an annual W-L record of 41-22.

Vanderbilt began playing intercollegiate baseball in 1886.  The Commodores had 19 head coaches from 1886 through 1967, none of whom was extraordinarily successful, and many of whom were quite unsuccessful.

Perhaps the most well known name among those 19 coaches is one Grantland Rice, the sportswriter, who led the team for a single season, in 1908.  (See Grantland Rice and Early Vanderbilt Baseball).  His team was an unspectacular .538 ballclub.

Bill Schwartz coached Vandy on three different occasions, in 1917, from 1924-1940, and again in 1952.    (Check out  Vandy's Bill Schwartz remembered)

Larry Schmittou coached from 1968-1978 and began the long rebuilding process, achieving a .548 record.

Roy Mewbourne took over from 1979-2002 and kept the 'Dores barely on the winning side, with a .518 record.  He played a large role in the building of Hawkins Field, which opened in his final season.

Tim Corbin took over the helm of Vanderbilt Baseball in 2003.  He has amassed a 410-217 record (.654).  The Commodores missed the NCAA Regionals in his 1st and 3rd seasons.  But in his second season, 2004, they made it to a Super Regional, and since 2006 they have an unbroken record of making it into the NCAA post-season.
In 2011 Corbin led Vanderbilt to the College World Series.

Notable Vanderbilt ballplayers
Vandy Baseball in 2012

The 2012 Commodores compiled a  35-28 record, 16-14 in the SEC.  They lost to Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament finals.  And they were beaten out by North Carolina State in the Raleigh, NC, Regional.

Postmortem: The 2012 Vanderbilt Baseball Team and Their Inability to Play a Boring Game After March (, 6/5/12)
Real fans held out hope, though. Every non-conference game was a chance to get this team's record closer to even. Every SEC showdown was an opportunity to prove that this team was no longer the bumbling gang of young players who seemingly couldn't get through two innings without committing an error. We kept telling ourselves that the growth that began in February would turn out to be exponential when April hit. And this underclassman-heavy squad rewarded that commitment.

That lingering sense of faith is what made this team, this coach, and this Vanderbilt sports dynasty, special. For all intents and purposes, this team's season should have ended in earnest on April 21st. That's when a Commodore team that needed to play lights-out baseball to qualify for the postseason lost their second game in a row to an Alabama squad that only won 21 games all year. That dropped Vanderbilt to 17-23 late in their season with some major showdowns looming.

To suggest the remaining schedule was a challenge would be understatement. This was a Vanderbilt team that was in danger of missing a 10-team SEC Tournament, and they still had series remaining against a pair of top 10 teams (LSU and Kentucky), their in-state rivals (Tennessee), a top 25 team (Ole Miss) and a game against their new rival/top 25 opponent Louisville. If they managed to survive that, they'd still need to tread water in the shark tank of the SEC Tournament where South Carolina and Florida waited. If you were anywhere else but Natchez Trace, things probably looked bleak.

But not at Hawkins Field. This young team rebounded with a resiliency that shocked college baseball. They rolled off a 16-4 run that carried them through the end of the regular season and into the SEC Tournament Final. . .

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