Our baseball team had a nice weekend at Talking Stick, Arizona defeating Virginia, 15-9 on Friday Night, No. 25 Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, 14-9, before falling to No.19 TCU on Sunday, 10-2.
Second baseman Austin Martin was named SEC player of the week yesterday for his terrific performance at Salt River Fields over the weekend. For the weekend, Austin went 6 for 10 at the plate, .600, with a double, a triple and 4 singles. The sophomore from Jacksonville, FL also scored 9 runs. Austin is leading the team in hitting at .600. Shortstop Ethan Paul was also sensational hitting .538, going 7 for 13, with 3 doubles, a homer and 4 Ribeyes. Outfielder and first baseman Stephen Scott hit .455 with 5 hits in 11 plate appearances, with a double and 3 runs scored. Our great right fielder, JJ Bleday, hit .375 over the weekend with 6 hits in 16 at bats including a homer and 3 Ribbies. Third baseman Jayson Gonzalez hit .333 with a double and 2 runs batted in. Our awesome catcher, sophomore Philip Clarke, hit .308 with a homer and 8 RBIs.
As a team, we hit .330. Pitching was somewhat of a different story. Drake Fellows pitched Friday Night and gave up 5 hits, 5 earned runs in 4 innings with 3 walks and 5 K’s. Saturday Night, Patrick Raby pitched pretty well, going 5.2, giving up 4 hits, 1 run with 3 walks and 2 K’s. On Sunday, freshman Kumar Rocker was hit pretty hard, getting through only 1.1 innings, giving up 5 hits, 5 runs, with 2 walks and a K. Our bullpen was OK. Lefty Jake Eder pitched an inning of shutout ball and struck out 2 against TCU on Sunday. But the bullpen needs to improve. Pitching coach Scott Brown needs to get the rotation and all the arms in better form for us to achieve our goals of winning the SEC, winning the SEC Tournament, winning our regional, our super regional and winning it all in Omaha. I know those are lofty goals and they’re mine, but this team certainly has the players to achieve that.
We need to get better pitching and shore up our defense. We committed 3 errors over the weekend. So a lot to work on, though, overall, it was a pretty successful weekend and great experience for our players. We play Evansville tomorrow at 4:30 PM CT at Hawkins Field, so we need good pitching and defense to go along with our stellar hitting. SEC Network+ will broadcast on the computer.
Freshman Aaron Nesmith had a spectacular week of basketball last week for our team. Aaron averaged 25 points, 11 1/2 rebounds, 1 1/2 assists and 1 1/2 steals against Florida and Auburn respectively. Though they were losses, Aaron’s play and the play of the team was encouraging. Against Florida, Aaron poured in 26 points and then scored 24 against Auburn and pulled down 14 boards. Aaron has scored 20 or more points on 4 different occasions in the SEC. He is averaging 15.3 ppg in SEC play.
I know it’s been a tough season for our team. The loss of Darius Garland was devastating. But the effort has been there all season. Bryce said that he’s never had to worry about this team’s effort. I emailed Bryce before the Alabama game a week and a half ago and told him we’re getting better. He got back to me and said the culture is great, the kids are still excited and “better times are ahead!” I believe Bryce. He’s an awesome coach. We just have guys like Aaron, Simi, Matt Ryan and Yanni Wetzell who have never played together. Saben is still a sophomore and he’s played very hard and done some excellent things throughout this season. Senior Joe Toye is fighting and playing well for us. So is junior Clevon Brown. Both have become better players under Bryce. So has sophomore Maxwell Evans filling in at point when Saben needs a break. That’s the sign of good coaching to me, that the players are improving, and there is no doubt that all our guys are. We just need to keep fighting the rest of this season and keep improving and ascending towards the SEC Tournament, which will be at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, March 13th-17th, and just try to win every game from now on starting tonight. Tennessee tonight at 6 on ESPN. Difficult at UT, but we’ll fight. With all these guys coming back next season besides Joe, who we’ll miss and try to get him going out on a positive note the rest of this season, and the 2, 4 star freshman we have coming in along with a high 3 star who could very well be a 4 star by the time the player rankings are complete, we have a shot to have a special season in 2019-2020. With Saben, Aaron, Simi, Matt, Yanni, Ejike Obinna, coming off a redshirt year and 6’10, 234 pounds, Maxwell with another year under his belt, and Clevon getting better and better, good times are definitely ahead for this basketball program. Believe in Bryce completely and the culture he has instilled. I’ve been to a practice, and they are well run, hard working, positive, and highly productive practices. Bryce knows what he’s doing. Really believe the future is very bright for this basketball team. But let’s go ahead and beat Tennessee tonight. The future starts tonight.
Men’s golf wins the Gator Invitational
The VU men’s golf team notched another victory on their impressive resume. winning the Gator Invitational in Gainesville, FL. finishing 1 under par for the tournament and defeating the Florida Gators by a shot. The 7th ranked Dores by Golfweek, and 3rd ranked by Golfstat, were led by individual winner senior Will Gordon, who carded a 7 under par 3 day total. The great Will and our other great senior, Patrick Martin, who finished tied for 4th, were sensational, and junior John “Clutch” Augenstein, sank a birdie putt on 18 to clinch the victory. This victory comes off the heels of our victory over 15 other teams at the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational in October. We’ve got great leadership with Patrick, Will and John. Our younger players need to step up and help for us to be elite. I’m going to talk with our superb coach, Scott Limbaugh, on Thursday and will have Scott’s thoughts on the team next week. Our next competition will be in Los Cabos, Mexico at the Querencia Cabo Intercollegiate with a stacked field including No.1 Oklahoma State and No.4 Alabama. The dates are March 3rd-5th. So it’ll be a great test for out team. Will have Scott next week.
Women’s Golf wins another title
Our 5th ranked women’s golf team won the Reynolds Lake Okone Invitational in Greensboro, GA. for consecutive victories after capturing the UCF Challenge 2 weeks earlier in Orlando. Freshman Auston Kim shot 4 under par 68 on Sunday to capture a tie for second place. Auston, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year, earned her 4th top 10 finish with an even par 216 for the tournament. Junior Abbey Carlson closed the tournament with a pair of 1 under rounds to finish in 5th place. This team is really exciting just like the men are. Going to speak with Coach Greg Allen in the next week and get his comments on his exciting group. Our next competition is the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate in Hilton Head, S.C., March 8th-10th.
Women’s and Men’s Tennis
Our women’s team is presently ranked No.5 in the country by the ITA rankings. We are 4-2. Our losses have come to No.2 North Carolina and No.1 Georgia. UNC was at home and Georgia was at the ITA National Team Indoors in Seattle, Washington a week and a half ago. We had defeated Washington in the first round match of the Indoors, 4-0. We’ve got an awesome team led by senior star Fernanda Contreras. We are aiming for our 5th straight Final Four and our goal there is to win it all. We have the talent to do that. I’ll be speaking with our great coach, Geoff McDonald, today, and will have Geoff’s comments on his team, along with Astra Sharma’s amazing mixed doubles performance at the Australian Open along with her singles accomplishments and will post Thursday. We have a big weekend on the west coast as we play Cal on Friday at Berkeley, and No.3 Stanford on Saturday at Palo Alto. The Cal match Friday is at 5 PM CT and the Stanford match Saturday is at 2 PM CT. Not sure about broadcast for those matches, but will keep you posted on how we do. Then we’ll open up play with Missouri at home on Friday March 1st at 3:30 PM. You can watch the match on vucommodores.com or you can read my blog on it. Will have my discussion with Geoff on the blog Thursday.
The men’s tennis team is playing very well coming off 5 consecutive match victories over Penn State, Middle Tennessee, Michigan State, Belmont and Rice, respectively. We are now 8-2. We play North Florida and Lipscomb this Friday at home then we open up the SEC schedule on the road @ Mississippi State on Friday, March 1st at 3 PM. You can watch our matches against North Florida and Lipscomb on vucommodores.com. North Florida is at noon CT and Lipscomb is at 4 PM CT. If not, I’ll give you a breakdown over the weekend or Monday. Going to speak with Coach Ian Duvenhage next week and will post that interview ASAP.