Our No.2 Vanderbilt baseball team squares off with Ohio State tonight at the Hawk at 6. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
We are the SEC regular season and tournament champions for the first time since our great David Price-led 2007 team. We are 49-10 overall. Ohio State, winners of the Big Ten Tournament, 3-1 over Nebraska at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha last Sunday, is 35-26.
Probable starters are RHP Drake Fellows for us vs RHP Garrett Burhenn for them. Drake is coming off a spectacular performance in the 3rd round of the SEC Tournament where he shutout a potent hitting Mississippi State team over 6 innings, giving up only 5 hits, while walking 1 and striking out 8. It was a warrior-like performance from our junior. We won the game 1-0 over Mississippi State’s vaunted left hander Ethan Small. Drake is now 11-0 with a 4.05 ERA. Burhenn is 6-3 with a 3.53 ERA, so he’ll be challenging.
Right fielder JJ Bleday has been named one of the 4 finalists for the 42nd Golden Spikes Award. The award honors the best amateur baseball player in the United States. The other 3 finalists are Adley Rutschman of Oregon State, Noah Song of Navy and Andrew Vaughn of California. Vaughn won the award last year. Bleday leads the nation in home runs with 26 and slugging percentage at .752, a spectacular percentage. Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers leads MLB with a .754 slugging % and has hit 20 homers and driven in 52. So JJ is right there with the best in the majors. JJ and Ethan Paul lead the team and the SEC in RBIs with 67 in 59 games. That’s sensational.
The winner of the Golden Spikes will be announced Thursday, June 13th at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha during “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN2 prior to the Detroit Tigers-KC Royals game. Hoping the great JJ can capture this coveted award.
So huge one tonight. Drake needs to be the bulldog he always is, we need to defend well, and hit with runners in scoring position. A couple of long ones wouldn’t hurt either.
The winner of tonight’s game plays the winner of No.2 seed Indiana State (41-16) and No.3 McNeese (35-24) at 6 PM Saturday. The loser will play the loser of game 1 at noon Saturday. Indiana State and McNeese will square off at noon today.
Stack adds another to ‘19 haul
Coach Jerry Stackhouse added another player to his impressive 2019 class by getting a commitment from Croatian big man Oton Jankovic.
Oton is 6’9”, 215 and an 88 3 star. Watched Oton’s tape, he’s a highly skilled player. Typical European with superb fundamentals, shooting, both inside and beyond the arc, boxing out on rebounding, setting screens and passing. Awesome kid too. Read his interview with Vandysports and he’s super. Wants to get better at his rebounding, but seems like a hard working, focused young guy who excels in the classroom and is serious about both academics and basketball. He’s ecstatic to play for Coach Stackhouse. He’s a good scorer inside and can stroke it from distance. He’ll add strength in the weight room, so his rebounding should be good next season. Oton played at prestigious Montverde Academy in Florida last year and was pursued by St. Louis, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin also.
Oton joins 93 4 star power forward Dylan Disu ( 6’8”, 185, Plugerville, Texas), 89 3 star point guard Scotty Pippen Jr (6’0”, 160, Sierra Canyon, California), 88 3 star small forward Kenyon Martin (6’6”, 195, Sierra Canyon, CA.), 87 3 star small forward Jordan Wright (6’6”, 200, Baton Rouge, LA.) and 98 4 star transfer shooting guard D.J. Harvey (6’6” 185). D.J. transferred to us from Notre Dame and will have to sit out the 2019-20 season but will be eligible for the 2020-21 season. He will have 2 years to play for us. He is a tremendous shooter and overall player.
So Stack is setting us up for a very bright future. I think we can be highly competitive next season and we’ll be a hard-nosed, lunch pale like team that will make you work to score. If we can score the ball with Saben, Aaron and Ejike and some of the other guys along with our new players, we could be dangerous. Like the way we look in the years to come and Stack is in on some awesome players for 2020.
We will open the season on Saturday, August 31st @ Vanderbilt Stadium at 6:30 PM CT versus the Georgia Bulldogs. The game will be televised by the SEC Network. Georgia will most likely be a top 5 to 7 team in the country, but I like the players Coach Mason has added in recruiting and transfers. We need Deuce Wallace or Riley Neal to step up at quarterback. If we can get excellent play from one or both of those guys, though we’ll need to go with 1 quarterback in my opinion, if you have 2 quarterbacks you have no quarterback as the old saying goes, we have the weapons around the qb in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Kalija Lipscomb, Jared Pinkney and a slew of wide receivers to make explosive plays. We’ve got some other pretty solid running backs. I’m really high on Ja’Veon Marlow. He can be exceptional in the backfield. I like Amir Abdul-Rahman, he will be a sensational wide receiver, and we’ll have former 4 star Cam Johnson back at wide receiver who was out with an injury most of last season and is a superb talent, and the awesome C.J. Bolar. We’ll have weaponry. The line needs to shape up this summer and we need a 10 man rotation, but there is talent led by left tackle Devin Cochran (6’7”, 315). There is plenty of size and physicality up front. Coach Cameron Norcross is a very good developer of the O line, so I expect us to be strong up front. Defense will have some new faces, but experience as well. I really like our secondary and defensive front though. Linebacker has talent led by Dimitri Moore, Caleb Peart and Alston Orji. We’ve got some good players at LB, and we’re loaded in the defensive backfield. Coach Mason has added a lot of players to the defensive front, so I expect us to be pretty good in the trenches too.
Will have more on football as the summer progresses.