Women's tennis takes SEC Championship, Women's bowling national champions, baseball, MLBers, men's golf

This Vanderbilt Women's tennis team is spectacular. They are so mentally tough and driven, and there as superb in the classroom as they are on the tennis court, and that's an extremely high bar. 

The women did it once again. After winning the SEC regular season title with tremendously clutch victories at South Carolina and Florida last weekend, with all 3 teams heading into the weekend at 10-1, and after defeating South Carolina on Friday, being down 3-1 in the match to Florida a week ago Sunday and being down in the 3 final sets, and getting 3 victories to clinch the SEC regular season title, 4-3, over Florida at Florida. But the women were far from finished. With spectacular play from juniors Fernanda Contreras and Summer Dvorak, and the other women all playing superbly well, we defeated Florida yesterday, 4-0, to capture the SEC Tournament Championship.

It was the second year in a row the women have won both the regular season and tournament championships. Geoff McDonald and his women have done amazing things, and there's more to come. We've got a team capable of winning it all like we did in 2015. The women, led by senior Astra Sharma and the amazing Fernanda, will now prepare for their exams, get healed up and then be ready to play in the NCAA Tournament. We will in all certainty host a regional with 4 teams per regional. The NCAA Championships will be played at Winston-Salem, N.C. But Geoff and the girls are only concerned with one thing, improving every day to get ready for the regional. It's a phenomenal program and this is another phenomenal McDonald team. It doesn't get any better than women's tennis at Vanderbilt University. I will keep you posted on whom we will play in the regional which will almost certainly be played at the Currey Tennis Center in Nashville. We are ranked 2nd in the country and defeated No.1 North Carolina earlier this season. There is massive talent in this NCAA Tournament, so we'll have our work cut out for us. But I trust Geoff, Fernanda, Astra, Summer, Amanda Meyer, Emma Kurtz and Christina Rosca 100% to be prepared to do spectacular things in the national tournament. There an extremely special group of young women. Proud to have them representing us both in the SEC and in the national arena. If you haven't watched our women play either live or on the computer or TV it is well worth checking them out. They are something else.

 The regionals commence Friday, May 11th. Can't wait.

Women's Bowling takes second national championship

I didn't know if I would be interested in watching bowling, but after seeing our women's program capture their second national championship, the first was in 2007, it was tremendously exciting.

John Williamson's team was down 3-2 in the championship match versus McKendree University out of Lebanon, Illinois, the defending national champion. But with clutch strike after clutch strike, the women conquered McKendree and won another coveted national title. Led by co-MVP's Katie Stark, who was superb, and Emily Rigney, along with the stellar Kristin Quan, who has a 3.95 GPA in Biomedical Engineering, and anchor Maria Bulanova, the team showed amazing grit, heart and such incredible concentration and resilience, to roll the strikes and save spares that looked impossible at times. 

Really a spectacular job by Coach Williamson and our awesome bowling team. Katie S is a senior, so she goes out as a champion. Rigney is a sophomore, Quan is a junior and Bulanova is a sophomore and freshman Samantha Gainor is going to be superb. So next year looks just as promising. What a team though and what an accomplishment. Maybe our women's tennis team, our men's golf team and our baseball team can follow suit. Super stuff by our bowling team. They deserve a ton of credit.

Baseball

We took 1 of 3 at Missouri this weekend, winning the final game of the series, 6-2. On Saturday, freshman Mason Hickman gave us an outstanding start, going 7, giving up 4 hits, 2 runs with 0 earned, 0 walks and 4 K's. Mason was superb. Hard throwing redshirt freshman Reid Schaller closed the door on the Tigers with 2 innings of 2 hit ball, with 0 walks and 4 K's. Reid was hitting 97. He was awesome. Our great freshman, Austin Martin, who can play 3rd, center or 1st base and is an amazingly clutch hitter, was 3 for 5 with a Ribbie. Junior second baseman Ethan Paul was 3 for 5 with a pair of Ribeyes and freshman DH Philip Clarke, another one of the extremely talented freshman class Corbs has assembled, was 2 for 4 with 2 Ribeyes. We pounded out 12 hits on Saturday after struggling with the lumber on Thursday and Friday Nights. We didn't field it great this past weekend, but if we can get back to fielding it like we have been for most of the season, and hit the ball like we're capable of, we've got a shot to be special. Our starting pitching was awesome over the weekend. Thursday Night in a 2-1 loss, sophomore starter Drake Fellows went 7, gave up 4 hits, 2 runs with only 1 earned, he walked only 1 and struck out 9. Drake was super good. We just couldn't get more than one run home for him. Freshman Tyler Brown came in and gave us a good inning in the 8th, but we couldn't muster any offense on a cold, windy night in Columbia, MO. , not conducive to hitting. Friday Night Patrick Raby gave us another superior start, going 7, giving up 3 hits with 1 unearned run, 2 walks and 6 K's. Rabes, the veteran on this staff, was sensational. Tyler Brown came in and got a big out, but the rest of our bullpen struggled, and we gave up a 2 run single in the bottom of the 8th and lost 3-1. But the starting pitching was very encouraging as we move forward. 

We are now 24-16 overall, 10-8 in the SEC, and ranked 17th in the country by D1Baseball.com. We are tied with Georgia, Ole Miss and Arkansas for second place overall in the conference. No.1 Florida leads at 14-4. Florida is 32-5 overall. They're outstanding, but if we can get hot, we can give anybody in the SEC a run for their money.

Austin is leading the team in hitting at .373. He is just a winning player for us. Phlip Clarke is hitting .299. We're hitting .265 as a team, so we need to improve on that. I will say, Missouri has very good starting pitching, all 3 of their starters were left handers, and they were difficult to hit. They threw it hard and threw strikes. Missouri is also tough to beat at home. So I see us coming out of it our hitting slump and Saturday was a 12 hit day for the team, so that's very promising. Rabes is 2-4 with a 2.47 ERA, Drake is 4-3 with a 3.03 ERA, and Mason is 7-1 with a 3.69 ERA. Still figuring out who can be that 4th and 5th starter for the postseason, and still working of figuring out the bullpen, but I liked Reid S as a possible closer for us. He's got a cannon. Tyler Brown looks like he could be a stopper in the pen. Still believe in Jackson Gillis. He can be an important pitcher for us in this last month and a half. We're still fielding at a .983 percentage and junior shortstop Connor Kaiser has not committed an error, not 1, in 151 chances. It's amazing. Connor has a pretty good bat too and he's having an excellent year. We're still getting 3rd base figured out. First base is still a work in progress and center is still kind of developing. Freshman right fielder Pat DeMarco is an excellent baseball player, and junior Stephen Scott is a valuable member of this team in left, where he has really come on as a defensive player. Stephen is also very good behind the plate. Stephen gives us good power and run driving in lumber too. Sophomore Ty Duvall is giving us super work behind the plate and Ty hits it well. He had a huge 2 run triple in our 8-7 nightcap victory over Ole Miss a week ago. He was awesome in that game. Ethan hit a hugely clutch home run in the first game against a highly talented Ole Miss team, a game in which we also won, 8-7. And Austin, using his incredibly high baseball IQ and savvy, used a hidden ball trick on an Ole Miss runner at third. It was against right fielder Ryan Olenek, who had been killing us with his bat all weekend. Olenek was at third in a crucial situation and stepped off the bag momentarily. Austin, playing third, had acted like he had thrown the ball back to the pitcher, but actually had it in his glove. Once Olenek stepped off the bag, Austin snuck over and put the tag on him. It was awesome and was such a momentum builder for the team. Ole Miss is a terrific team, so taking the doubleheader from them was spectacular. Austin Martin is the most valuable player on the team at this point. He just makes so many super plays for us, both with the bat and in the field. He's a tremendous base runner for us as well. We are a very good base running team having stolen 74 bases in 91 attempts, 81%, and lead the SEC in steals. So sometimes we need to manufacture runs, and we've got the ability to do that with our prolific base running skills.  

We play South Carolina this weekend at home beginning Friday at 6:30 PM CT on SEC Network+ on the computer or a Roku TV. Saturday's game is at 2 PM CT and Sunday's game is at 1 PM CT. SEC Network+ will televise those 2 games as well. 

So we're getting into the last month of the regular season. We are dominated by juniors and freshmen on our roster. It's very promising for next year, but the way these talented freshmen have developed, they were the No.1 recruiting class in the country, and our juniors, who were also the No.1 class in the country, we've got a shot to make some serious noise this year. Our sophomore class is pretty good too. We only have one senior on the team, left handed pitcher Paxton Stover, who can help us down the stretch. A lot of great stuff ahead for this baseball program, hopefully this season.

 

MLB guys

Ryan Flaherty and Dansby Swanson, Braves

Ryan is hitting .362 and is leading the National League in hitting. Mookie Betts of the Red Sox is the only player ahead of Ryan in average at .366. Dans is hitting .342 and is 6th in batting in the NL. Both are spectacularly good defensive players. The Braves are 12-8 after having won a terrifically exciting game Saturday Night against the Mets. The Bravos were down 3-2 heading into the bottom of the 9th, and the Mets had their ace reliever, Jeurys Familia on the hill. Familia has a 1.50 ERA and 8 saves and throws it 97-98. Dans led off with a walk, and then Johan Camargo laced a triple up the middle that rolled all the way to the right central field wall. Dans hauled tail around the bases and scored. After a strikeout, Ender Inciarte drove home the winning run with a bunt single as the Braves took their 2nd game in a row over the Mets, 4-3. It was incredible. The Braves are for real. They've got really good young pitching and they can defend and really hit. If their bullpen can hold up, this team can challenge for the division and certainly a wild card. To me, it's about their bullpen. Can those guys get lock down as the season matriculates. The Mets are 14-6 and lead, the Phillies are 14-7 and a 1/2 game back and the Braves, at 12-8, are 2 back. The Nationals are beset by three injuries to 3 starters including the great Daniel Murphy, but they'll get in it once those guys return later this month or early May. But the Nationals are in a little danger with 3 key players banged up. If they're not careful, they could fall too far behind. They're certainly a potent team at full strength. The Braves are at the Reds today. MIke Foltynewicz is on the hill. Folty is 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA. He can hit 98,99, and, at 26, is one of the young arms the Braves are counting on to help lead them to greatness in the upcoming years. Another one of those young arms is Kyle Wright, who is coming up quickly through the minors. Kyle, who was stellar in at VU where he pitched last year, should be a key part of that rotation in the future. Really like where Dans and Ryan are right now. Playing superbly well.

David Price, Red Sox

David came up just short yesterday in a 4-1 loss to Oakland. DP went 7.2, gave up 9 hits, 4 earned with 1 walk and 6 K's. Dave had it going through 6 shutting down the A's bats for only 1 run. But he ran into some trouble in the seventh. After striking out Jed Lowrie for the third time, Lowrie is hitting .351, DP had 2 outs and had a chance to get out of the inning with his team tied at 1 with the A's. But his first pitch fastball was crushed by Khris Davis into the left field seats for a 3 run shot, and David fell, 4-1. He threw 96 pitches, 68 for strikes against 28 balls a better than 2:1 ratio. His stuff was electric, I just think he got a little tired out there. Manager Alex Cora could have taken David out and gone to a right hander in the bullpen, but he stuck with Dave and I'm glad he showed confidence in DP. It'll pay off in the future. The Sox are now 17-4 and lead the AL East by 4 games over the Blue Jays, which are 13-8. They lead the Yankees by 5 1/2 games. The Yanks are 11-9.

Sonny Gray, Yankees

Sonny has been having a tough time of it lately. He got hit pretty hard against the Blue Jays last Friday Night at Yankee Stadium. He was awesome through the first 3 innings but ran into a lot of trouble and got hit very hard in the 4th. The Yanks lost 8-5 to the Jays. I still believe Sonny, who is such a bulldog, will battle back and pitch well for the Bombers. Sonny pitches this Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins. Game time is 5:35 PM CT in the Bronx.

Mike Minor, Rangers

Mike pitched really well for the Rangers Friday Night albeit in a loss to the Seattle Mariners. Mike went 5.1 innings, gave up 6 hits, 1 run, earned, with 1 walk and 6 K's. I thought Mike was awesome. He hit 93-94 and his change up and curve were both solid. Can't remember if Mike throws a cutter or not, but I think he does. He was very effective Friday Night. Mike throws again Friday at Toronto.

Carson Fulmer, White Sox

Carson has been struggling with his control some, but is still in the starting rotation for the ChiSox as of today. Carson may pitch tomorrow or Wednesday versus the Mariners. That's to be decided. If Carson can get his control down, he can be a very effective major league pitcher.

Pedro Alvarez, Orioles

Pedro was swinging a very hot bat for a while, but has cooled off a bit lately. Would like to see El Toro get it going again because when he does, he's unstoppable and so good in the clutch. Believe very much in Pedro.

Walker Buehler, Dodgers

It's Buehler's day to go off in LA today as Walker will get the start for the LA Dodgers tonight versus the Miami Marlins. Will be pulling for Walker to have a big night in his first outing in the Bigs. Will tell you about it tomorrow.

Tyler Beede, Giants

Tyler had some struggles, so he was sent back down to Triple A Sacramento. That's OK. Tyler can keep developing in triple A and get back to the big club sooner rather than later.

Tony Kemp, Astros

One of my favorite all time players at VU, Tony is still at the Astros triple A Fresno team, but always plays well for them and has been up to the big club, including last year, and is just an injury or 2 away from getting up to this loaded team.  The Astros are so talented that it's really hard to break into this lineup let along their 25 man roster. But believe Tony can do it. Such a good player and an amazing teammate. 

Men's Golf

The No.2 ranked Men's Golf team heads to Sea Island, GA. to play in the SEC Championships starting Wednesday. There will be 4 stroke play rounds then match play for the 8 teams that emerge from stroke play. We won it last year on our way to the Final Four, and we're hoping for the same result in the SEC's and an even better result nationally. Theo Humphrey, Will Gordon, Patrick Martin and John Augenstein are a tremendous quartet. Mason Greenberg is a good fifth player to have on the team. Coach Scott Limbaugh has another stellar group. This could be his best team so far.  Certainly excited about what these guys can do.

Women's Golf

The Women's team advanced to the match play of the SEC Championships over the weekend and lost barely to Alabama, 3-2. The women will most likely play in the NCAA's. Good stuff for the Women.

Men's Tennis

The Men's tennis team heads into the SEC Tournament this week at the University of Alabama ranked 21st in the country. The men have had an awesome year and look NCAA tournament bound. Maybe we can be the darkhorse and pull off a surprise and win the SEC and flourish from there on out. 

Men's basketball

Just signed Syracuse transfer Matt Moyer. Moyer was a former 4 star and he is 6'8", 220. Like his size. Matt will sit out in 2018-19 and have 2 more years to play for us. Like this pickup. 

Romeo Langford, the No.6 player in the country, will make his announcement next Monday Night, April 30th, at his New Albany, Indiana gym. I'd say it's 50-50 on whether we get Romeo. Looks like it's between us and Indiana with Kansas still a factor. If we get Romeo, we'll be a spectacular team next year. Even if we don't get him,  we'll still be  awesome with 5 stars Darius Garland and Simsola Shittu coming in along with high 4 star Aaron Nesmith. Would love to add Romeo to this class along with our big men transfers who will be eligible next season, Yanni Wetzell (6'10, 235) and Matt Ryan (6'8", 209). Add the awesome Saben Lee, super exciting Maxwell Evans, developing big man Ejike Obinna, along with bigs Clevon Brown, Djery Baptiste and small forward Joe Toye in there and we've got the makings of an exceptional team next season. Larry Austin, Jr. and Payton Willis transferred. Hope both those guys have successful futures. 

But I really like what this team can do next year. If Romeo signs, this team could be Final Four material. It could very well be even without him, but come on Romeo, come to the West End and play for Bryce and the Dores.

Football

Will have more on our football team next week. Coach Mason is super excited about this team and calls this his most talented team in his 5 years on the West End. He has four new coaches he's very excited about and says this is also his best staff in his 5 years. I like our material. There's some youth at certain positions, but it's talented youth. Wide receiver is younger, but I really like our talent level there led by the awesome Kalija Lipscomb. Inside linebacker is not extremely deep, but we have good players there led by Jordan Griffin and Caleb Peart. Offensive line looks great and deep. Quarterback is in fantastic shape with Kyle, Deuce Wallace and Allan Walters coming in. We'll probably need to recruit 1 or 2 QBs in this 2019 class. Running back is loaded led by the Mamba, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, the transfer from Illinois who will light it up on Saturdays in the SEC. Khari Blasingame is primed for a big year, and Jamauri Wakefield and Josh Crawford are going to be excellent this season. Running back is stellar. Defensive line is deep and big. Like where we are there. Josh Smith and Charles Wright will lead a talented outside linebacking corps. Josh is ready for a breakout year. Charles is already a breakout player for us and will be spectacular in 2018. LaDarius Wiley and Joejuan Williams are ready for huge years at safety and corner respectively. Secondary is pretty loaded. We've got a good return game and the kicking game will materialize this summer. The freshmen who have played in the spring and the others who are coming in this summer are an outstanding class, many of whom can contribute right away. I'll have more coming up next week. Man, writing about this gets me ready. Anchor Down.