Sunday, June 22, 2014

College Baseball Update

Almost 30 years ago, I used to spend a fair amount of time watching Vandy baseball.  At the time, there weren't that many of us.  Vandy played on a field that had been squeezed into the campus, just under the football bleachers and right next to Memorial Gym.  It was all very informal -- usually about a 100 or so people sitting in the April sun, doing their class reading and chatting with their friends.  I remember going into the football stadium and clambering all the way up to the top of the bleachers, from where you could look over the back wall down at the baseball players far below.  The games themselves were practically meaningless, at least to most students.  Vandy was never in contention for anything, as far as I can remember.  We usually finished far down the SEC standings, much as we did in football.

That's the way things had been for many years before I came to Vandy, and that's how things were for many years thereafter.

But it's all different now.  Twelve years ago, Tim Corbin came to Vanderbilt from Clemson, where he had been an assistant.  Since then, he has made Vandy into a national power.  The baseball field still sits in the shadows of the football stadium, and the left field fence still curves around Memorial Gym, but these days the Dores play in a first-class stadium, and thousands of Nashvillians regularly turn out for big games.  It is one of the greatest coaching jobs I have ever seen in any sport.

And now Vanderbilt -- lowly Vanderbilt, which has never won an NCAA title in any sport other than bowling -- is going to play for the National Championship.  The Dores beat Texas in dramatic fashion Saturday night, winning 4-3 in ten innings.  The winning run was scored when Tyler Campbell -- the backup third baseman -- beat out an infield single as the winning run crossed the plate.  Campbell had only 21 at-bats all year -- he was only in the game because Vandy's regular third baseman was suspended for an NCAA rules violation.  Now Campbell is a hero.

Ironically, Vandy's opponent in the title game is a school with a very similar history.  The University of Virginia had only reached the NCAA Baseball Tournament on three occasions until Coach Brian O'Connor showed up in 2003.  Since then the Cavs have been to the Tournament every year.  Like Vandy, however, this is their first trip to the final.  UVA has been the better team all year, and they will be favored in the final.  But fans of both teams will have fond, fond memories of this season.

UC Irvine 3, Texas 1
Vanderbilt 5, Louisville 3
Texas 4, Louisville 1 (Louisville eliminated)
Vanderbilt 6, UC Irvine 4
Texas 1, UC Irvine 0 (UC Irvine eliminated)
Texas 4, Vanderbilt 0
Vanderbilt 4, Texas 3 (10 innings) (Texas eliminated)

Texas Christian 3, Texas Tech 2
Virginia 2, Mississippi 1
Mississippi 2, Texas Tech 1 (Texas Tech eliminated)
Virginia 3, Texas Christian 2
Mississippi 6, Texas Christian 4 (Texas Christian eliminated)
Virginia 4, Mississippi 1 (Mississippi eliminated)

1 comment:

  1. Very great! Very excited for you, Go Heath, and you, @Buster_ESPN.