Our baseball team completed a sweep of South Carolina by taking both games of a doubleheader yesterday at Founders Park in Columbia.
After winning Friday, 22-11, we defeated the Gamecocks 9-3 in the first game and 6-2 in the nightcap yesterday. Both games were 7 innings. We moved to 38-9 overall and 18-6 in the SEC. Arkansas is next at 17-7. We are now ranked 3rd in the country by D1 Baseball and 2nd nationally in the Collegiate Baseball poll. UCLA and Stanford are ahead of us in the D1 poll, while UCLA is ahead of us in the Collegiate Baseball poll by a point. They have 495 points and we have 494. We are also 2nd in the RPI, the Ratings Percentage Index, which measures the top teams the country out of all the teams that play college baseball on the Division 1 level. UCLA is No.1. The RPI is a key factor for selecting the tournament in college baseball and basketball.
There ware a couple of milestones yesterday in the 2nd game, but I’ll discuss the first game first off.
After falling behind 2-0 in the 1st, we came back and took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 3rd on a grounder by Ethan Paul that got past the SC first baseman allowing 2 runs to score. Philip Clarke put us in front with an RBI infield single, a shot up the middle that the second baseman fielded but had no play on.. Austin Martin, who was 3-for-3 in the game, stroked a 2 run single in the top of the 7th and JJ Bleday, who was 2-for-2 in the game, hit a 2 run triple that opened things up for us at 9-3. AMart hit a ground rule double earlier to score Stephen Scott who had singled.
Kumar Rocker pitched a very fine game. Kumar went 5.2, gave up 3 runs, with a walk and 7 strikeouts. He just keeps on putting up great performance after great performance. Tyler Brown closed it out with 1.1 innings of no hit ball walking 2 and striking out 2. Kumar moved to 6-4 with a 4,36 ERA. His ERA keeps coming down. Tyler recorded his 10th save of the season and has an ERA of 2.70. Kumar has walked 14 and struck out 58 in 53.3 innings, while Tyler has walked only 7 and K’d 42 in 30 innings.
In game 2, Patrick Raby became Vanderbilt’s all time career wins leader with his program best 30th victory breaking a record set back in the early 70’s. Rabes was sharp going 5.2, giving up 5 hits, 2 runs, both unearned with 1 walk and 4 K’s. Hugh Fisher came in an got an out in the 6th to close out that inning and Tyler finished it off in the 7th. He didn’t get the save, but as usual, got the job done. Tyler’s extremely valuable.
JJ set the all time single season home run record at VU launching his 23rd of the season breaking a tie with Pedro Alvarez. It was an important home run too as we were only leading 4-2 going into the top of the 7th when JJ blasted his over the right central field wall. Ethan Paul backed JJ up with a homer over the right field wall, Ethan’s 6th of the season.
Defense was solid all weekend. Pat DeMarco made a tremendous catch in the right central field gap on Friday and JJ made a spectacular grab yesterday on a liner that was dropping for at least a single. It was a diving catch to our left hander’s right. JJ is now leading the country in homers. At 23, he’s 2 ahead of Tulane’s Kody Hoese. AMart, hitting .429, is second in the country to New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales, who is hitting .451. JJ is also 8th nationally in RBIs with 61. Two guys from New Mexico State and a guy from Wake Forest lead at 72. We are 4th in the country in fielding percentage at .981. Xavier is 1st, followed by Omaha and Cal State Fullerton. Xavier has a .983 % so we’re right there.
We are leading the SEC in batting average (.321), State is next at .315, Slugging percentage, On base percentage, Runs scored, hits (531, State next at 530), RBI’s, 379, Arkansas next at 364, triples, 15, Ark at 14, and tied for the league lead with South Carolina at 66 homers. Our team earned run average is 3.93, which is 6th in the conference, A&M leads at 3.09 And we of course lead the conference in fielding percentage. Georgia is next at .980 behind our .981.
So superb stuff coming out of our baseball program. Up next, a major challenge.
We go to 6th ranked Louisville for a 6 PM CT first pitch tomorrow in a game that will be broadcasted by ESPNU. I’m pretty positive Mason Hickman will be on the mound for us. Hick is 6-0 with a 2.05 ERA with 13 walks and 74 strike outs. He’s been terrific this season. He will probably face Louisville freshman right hander Jack Perkins, who has been their midweek guy, and is 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA. Louisville is 39-9 and 18-6 in the ACC, so this is a highly formidable test. We’ll have to be playing our best baseball tomorrow night in order to win the “Battle of the Barrel,” the moniker given to this game. Louisville has won 3 in a row, so it’s time to change that.
Stack keeps’em coming
New men’s basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse has made quite a splash in recruiting. After getting 4 star forward Dylan Disu (6’8”, 190) and high 3 star point guard Scotty Pippen Jr to stick with us, he secured a commitment and a signature from high 3 star guard Jordan Wright and just yesterday got a commit from high 3 star small forward Kenyon Martin Jr.
Disu is from Pflugerville, Texas and averaged 23.4 ppg and 11.1 rebounds as a senior. He’ll be a big help to our inside game as we lost Yanni Wetzell and Simi Shittu. Yanni transferred to San Diego State and Simi is trying out for the NBA draft in June. Not sure that’s the best move for Simi, but so be it. Disu will team up with Clevon Brown, Matthew Moyer and Ejike Obinna for out frontcourt. Dylan is ranked 112th in the 247 player rankings. Out of 247 players.
Martin, Jr. averaged 16.4 ppg and 9 boards as a senior. He is out of Sierra Canyon, California high school, which just won its second consecutive state championship. Martin is 6’6” 195 and is the son of former University of Cincinnati and NBA star Kenyon Martin. The elder Martin was a beast on the floor and on the glass. Martin Jr., according to his coach, has that same type of energy and athletic ability.
Wright, a 3 star guard out of Baton Rouge, is 6’6”, 200, and averaged 19.1 points, 8 boards and 6 assists at the Dunham School. He looks like a great addition along with Pippen Jr to our backcourt with the great Saben Lee, the terrific Aaron Nesmith, and the improving Maxwell Evans. Pippen Jr and Martin Jr were teammates at Sierra Canyon. Pippen, a 6’0”, 160 pound point guard, he’ll add muscle at VU, averaged 15 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals. Really like the NBA genes for Pippen Jr and Martin Jr. Both fathers were phenomenal players.
So amazing work by Stack and his staff. D.J. Harvey, a 6’6”, wing player who transferred out of Notre Dame recently, was a 4 star in high school, and averaged 10.7 ppg and 4.2 rbg at Notre Dame last season, and was on campus yesterday and was having a blast according to reports. Could be a transfer to look for. D.J. would have to sit out a year, but would be another super get for Stack and the staff..
There are some other ‘19 prospects and 2020 recruiting is in full swing as well. Really liking these early results from our new coach.
Some stellar running backs looking at VU
I usually don’t like talking about players who are “interested” in Vanderbilt, but these 3 running backs are so impressive, I have to mention them.
Tajh Brooks is a 5’11”, 198 pound running back out of Manor, Texas. A solid 3 star, this kid is awesome. Watched his tape and it was superb. Tajh is fast, tough, just takes it to the house with any hole and outruns any pursuer on a very consistent basis. Love this player. He’s No.1 on our running back recruiting board for 2020 and I can see why. He’s a Tulsa commit but hoping Coach Mason and the staff can convince Tajh to come our way. The other 2 backs are 5.7, 3 star Elijah Green, a a 5’11”, 190 back out of Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, Georgia. Impressive film as well. The third is Ahman Marshall, a 6’1”, 200 pound solid 3 star. Great size, fast and physical. All 3 would work. Two of them would be spectacular.
Our No.6 ranked women’s golf team leads the Auburn Regional at -1 after day one of the tournament, which has 2 more days left of 18 holes each day. There are 18 teams in the regional and the top 6 finishers qualify for the NCAA Championships at Blessings Golf Course in Fayettville, Ark. May 17th-22nd. No.3 Duke is second at +2, while No.11 Florida State and East Carolina are tied for 3rd at +3. Freshman superstar Auston Kim shot a 2 under 70, while senior Courtney Zang shot a 1 under par 71. Junior Abbey Carloson and sophomore Louise Yu each shot 73.So awesome first day. Need to keep it cookin tomorrow.
Also some super news, Auston KIm qualified for the 74th U.S. Women’s Open which will be played May 29th-June 2nd in Charleston South Carolina. Auston did it pretty dramatically, birdieing her 34th and 35th holes out of 36 to force a 2 person playoff which she won with 2 pars. That’s some super exciting stuff coming from Auston. Excited to see Auston at the Open. But first things first. Let’s win at Auburn and take it from there. Just gotta keep up the solid work tomorrow.
Our No.8 Women’s tennis team advanced to the Sweet 16 with 2 victories over the weekend at the Currey Tennis Center on the West End with consecutive 4-0 victories over Miaimi of Ohio and Georgia Tech. We now face No. 18 Texas A&M this Saturday at 1 PM at the Currey Center. It’ll be good to be playing at home as the women aim for yet another trip to the NCAA Championships, May 16th-19th in Orlando. Senior Fernanda Contreras, junior Christina Rosca, freshman Georgia Drummy and the rest of our women’s team are doing exceptional stuff once again under our great coach, Geoff McDonald. Excited for what’s ahead. Big test Saturday as A&M upset No.9 Texas at Texas yesterday, 4-1. They’re a solid team. We lost to them March 15th in College Station, 4-2, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.
Astra Sharma is now ranked No.98 in the WTA rankings, the world rankings for women’s professional tennis. She reached the finals of a tournament in Bogota, Columbia where she lost in a close one in 3 sets. Astra has qualified for the French Open and Wimbledon. The French Open at Roland Garros will commence Sunday May 26th and go through Sunday June 9th, with the women’s final Saturday, June 8th, and the men’s final Sunday, June 9th. So it would be phenomenal to see Astra competing both at Roland Garros and at Wimbledon. The Championships at Wimbledon will be played Monday July 1st through Sunday, July 14th. As Geoff said, it’s a tremendous accomplishment for someone in their first year out of college to be playing in the first 3 Slams of the year as Astra competed in and won at match at the Australian Open. Will keep you posted on Astra’s progress.
Men’s Golf in action next Monday
Men’s Golf begins play at the Athens (GA) Regional next Monday, May 13th. We are the No.1 seed in the regional and need to get in the top 5 of the 13 team regional to qualify for the NCAA Tournament which will also be played at the Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville from May 24th-29th.
Senior Patrick Martin was a captain’s pick for the Palmer Cup team. The Palmer Cup is an annual amateur Ryder Cup-style competition against the best amateur players from Europe. It will be played June 7th-9th at the Alotian Club in Little Rock, Arkansas. Great honor for Patrick, who’s had a stellar career at VU, one that I hope continues on until the end of May. Like our team. Just got to get off to a good start next Monday.
The Men’s tennis team lost to No.1 Ohio State, 4-0 on Saturday. We get some guys back for next year and had a solid season this year with a victory in the NCAA Tournament.
I’ll have Louisville recap, where our women’s golf team is standing at the Auburn Regional and our MLB guys. Several of our former players are excelling once again in the big leagues.