The greatness of Tim Corbin was no more evident than Monday Night in our regional championship game versus Clemson at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, S.C.
Corbs went with Junior Matt Ruppenthal as our starter. Some people questioned the decision. I questioned it slightly. I was wrong as were the others. Corbs and Pitching Coach Scott "Brownie" Brown believed in Rupe 100% and "trusted" him, as Corbs said during the game to the ESPN3 commentators. And did Matt ever deliver.
Corbs and Brownie also trusted "freshman," Jackson Gillis, and I put that in quotation marks because this young gun pitched like Mariano Rivera. Did he ever.
All in all, it was a sensational performance not only by our team, but also by our coaches. Corbs has had so many special seasons in his 15 years as head coach at Vanderbilt University, and this one ranks up there as one of his best, however it ends up. I'm optimistic that it'll be in Omaha, but whatever transpires the rest of the way, it's the way Coach Corbin has developed this group of players from a group that didn't look very good in the fall, according to Tim, to one that has developed into one of the best teams in the country.
We'll absolutely be tested in Corvallis this weekend versus Oregon State, but I really like where this team is at right now. They're not playing distraught over Donny Everett's passing, though I know there is still sadness, but they've now got the passion to play "with" number 41, as Corbs said to me three weeks ago. It's greatness. It's really phenomenal. It's strength through belief, strength through passion, strength through dedication to their late teammate, his amazing parents, Teddy and Susan, an amazingly focused discipline to be the best, and a passion for each other. It all starts with head coach Tim Corbin. It's been an amazing transformation of a college baseball team.
And it really didn't totally click until last Friday. There were signs during the season that this team was very talented. But over the weekend in Clemson, they showed what type of team they can be. And it culminated with an absolutely terrific performance from Matt Ruppenthal, Will Toffey, and Jackson Gillis. But our other players were hugely clutch throughout the weekend. Here's what happened in the penultimate game on Monday Night.
Matt was called upon by Corbs and Brownie to give us 6 good innings or so, and that's exactly what he did. Matt didn't rely on his 12-6 curve as much, though he did use it, but he was also throwing it 88-90 MPH with his fastball and throwing strikes and getting outs. Matt went 6, gave up only 6 hits, 0 runs, with a walk and 5 K's. He threw 80 pitches with 51 for strikes against 29 balls. He was electric and dominant against a terrific hitting team in a very hitters friendly ballpark. It's almost like Coors Field in Colorado where the Colorado Rockies launch long ball after long ball. With the short porches in Clemson, guys like DH Seth Beer (16 homers), catcher Chris Williams, who hit but didn't catch due to a shoulder problem (14 homers), and shortstop Logan Davidson (12 homers) launched many balls into the seats this season. But Matt held them in check throughout his six innings of stellar work. He was phenomenal. Reed Hayes, our usual closer, came on in the 7th, as Corbs made a prescient decision to go with a guy who throws it 93-95 to mix it up from Matt's slower stuff. Reed got'em out 1-2-3 in the top of the 7th, but then had some struggles in the 8th. The Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom of the 8th with one out , and the powerhouse hitting Beer coming to the plate. Corbs went to Gillis out of the pen. Jackson not only has the demeanor of a veteran pitcher, he has the look. He just looks tough. Jackson struck out Beer on a 93 MPH heater. Then he got Chase Pinder, another .305 hitter with 7 homers, to ground out to third for the final out. Jackson got them out 1-2-3 in the 9th to clinch the 8-0 victory and a trip to Corvallis to face No.1 Oregon State.
It was a masterful pitching performance by Matt and Jackson. Jackson could have earned Corbs' and Brownie's trust as our closer. He sure looked spectacular against a very good hitting team in a major pressure cooker situation.
Meanwhile, Will Toffey continued his masterful hitting in the postseason with a 2 run shot and a 3 run shot. Wow, Toff is hitting on another level. Those were home runs 10 and 11 for Will, and with the 5 RBIs, he now has 62 on the season. He is hitting .350.
Will was selected as Regional MVP. He was 9-for-19 over the weekend, a .474 average. He scored 8 runs and drove in 10. Ro Coleman was 3 for 5 in the game and freshman right fielder J.J. Bleday had a super game going 3-for-4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored. J.J. had 3 singles. Ro and Jeren Kendall were named to the All Tournament team. Jeren drove in 8 runs for the weekend, and Ro was spectacular, going 7-for-14 over the weekend. Ro played phenomenal left field as well, making highlight reel catch after highlight reel catch. He and Jeren were very instrumental in helping us win the Clemson regional. But the other guys, catcher Jason Delay, Reed Hayes as DH, second baseman Ethan Paul, and first baseman Julian Infante were also major reasons we advanced to the Super Regional. You can't forget the superb starting pitching performances of Patrick Raby on Friday, and Kyle on Saturday. Just an awesome team Regional victory.
Now we head out to the great Northwest to play the No.1 seed in the entire tournament and the top ranked team in the country, the Oregon State Beavers. They are 52-4. The Beavers also went 27-3 in the PAC-12. We are now 36-23-1. We've got our hands full. Game 1 is Friday Night at 8 CT on ESPN 2. Rabes gets the ball for us. Saturday Night's game is also at 8 CT, and that will be televised by ESPN. Sunday's game, if there is one, hope there's not, is to be determined for time and network if we split the first two games with the Beavers.
Will have more on this ultra talented Oregon State team, and more on our ultra talented team coming up on Friday as I preview this blockbuster matchup.
David Price, Mike Minor, Sonny Gray, Pedro Alvarez
I watched David Price's performance from Saturday this morning and was very impressed. David had total command of the game leading his Boston Red Sox team to a 5-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. David went 7, gave up 3 hits, 1 run, with 1 walk and 7 K's. David threw 92 pitches, 55 for strikes against 37 balls. Craig Kimbrel came in and closed it out for Dave and the Bosox for his 16th save.
David hit 94-95 some with his heater, but was using his cut fastball quite a bit, throwing it 88-90, and hitting his spots perfectly. He also used his change up quite a bit and it was a very effective pitch as well. He gave up a homer to Manny Machado, but giving up a homer to the star third baseman for the O's is something a lot of pitchers have to live with sometimes. But David was terrific overall.
The Red Sox also defeated the Yankees last night in the Bronx, 5-4, to move to 32-25 on the season, 1 game back of the Yanks in the American League East. So the Bosox are heating up. David pitches again tomorrow against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium @ 6 PM CT on ESPN. David will square off against Michael Pineda, who is 6-3 with a 3.76 ERA. In Pineda's last outing, he went 5 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays and gave up 5 runs on 10 hits, so he's hittable. The Yankees have some lumber though, so DP will have to be really on his game. David is now 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA, he has walked 3 and K'd 11. His WHIP (walks plus hits per inning) is 0.67 which is fantastic. Like where the man is right now.
Mike came in last night in the 9th for the KC Royals and pitched a really solid inning, giving up 1 run and striking out 1 with no walks, getting the victory to move to 3-1 on the season with a 2.12 ERA. Mike was hitting 95 with his fastball. He was throwing his slider 88 to 89, and pitched spectacularly well. Mike looks like he's back to being the pitcher he was when he was really cookin as a starter for the Braves in 2013. Mike has an 0.91 WHIP, so he's been terrific as well. Would love to see Mikey get another shot as a starter for KC. The Royals actually won it on a walk off homer by designated hitter Mike Moustakas in the bottom of the 9th to defeat the Houston Astros, which are 42-17 and uber hot, 9-7. The Royals moved to 25-32. They're in last place in the AL Central but only 5.5 games out of first place. The Minnesota Twins lead the Central at 29-25, so that division is up for grabs. The Astros are 13 games up on the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners in the AL West, so they are really dominating right now. Tony Kemp plays for the Fresno Grizzlies, the Astros triple A team, and he's been up to the big club this year like he was last year. Would really like to see Tony get a shot somewhere. He's just an injury away. He's hitting .288 for the Grizzlies, and playing outfield and second. Tony's such a super player.
Mike is really hitting his stride right now for the Royals.
I thought Sonny pitched really well for the A's last Sunday in Oakland against the powerful Washington Nationals. He went 7, gave up 4 hits, 3 runs, with 3 walks and 6 K's. He threw 104 pitches with 63 for strikes against 41 balls. Sonny's fastball was hitting 93-95 and he hit 96 a couple of times. He located his fastball well, and his curve was outstanding. The Nationals are a tough group to pitch against, the best team in the NL at this point and a hitting machine, so I was impressed with Sonny's performance. There has been a lot of talk of Sonny being on the trade market. If that's the case, I hope he can land with a contender. The Cubs are interested from what I've heard. There are some other contenders he could go to. Would like to see Sonny on a team that is seriously in the playoff hunt. Sonny will pitch again Saturday at Tampa Bay against Erasmo Ramirez, who is in his first start for the Rays and has a 4.09 ERA. Sonny is now 2-2 with a 4.57 ERA and has a 1.21 WHIP, but I was very encouraged by his performance last Sunday against the best hitting team in baseball.
Pedro is still playing for the Norfolk Tides, the triple A club for the Orioles, and last night he went 1-for-2 with an RBI double to deep central field. That was his 41st RBI of the season, to go along with 13 home runs and a .235 average. That average doesn't look that great, but it's come up so much the last couple of weeks. Pedro has been tearing it up with the bat recently. He needs to get a shot with Baltimore. He's too valuable of a hitter and he can play first or in right field if the O's need him to. He's just an injury away, or if Chris Davis keeps striking out 44 percent of the time he's at the plate (88 strikeouts in 198 at bats), maybe he can take Davis's spot at first. Pedro's a better player in my opinion, and has a ton more heart than Davis does. It should happen soon. I don't know what I'm seeing differently than the Orioles brass is seeing, but I see a much better first baseman at Norfolk than I do in Baltimore.
Feature on one of our VU baseball superstars, who has an incredibly moving, powerful story.
Vanderbilt@ Oregon State
A preview of our Super Regional series at Corvallis, Oregon which promises to be a classic college baseball playoff series.