Baseball has an excellent weekend, Basketball still fighting hard even though the results aren't there just yet

The No.1 Vanderbilt baseball team had a nice Sunday morning/afternoon at Hawkins Field sweeping a doubleheader over Pepperdine, 6-3 in the first game and 6-2 in the nightcap. We are No.1 in the D-1 Baseball Poll and the Baseball American Poll and No.2 in the Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Poll. LSU is No.1 in those polls. We are now 5-1 on the season. LSU is 7-0.

The hitting and pitching were very good Sunday. The defense is still a work in progress. In the first game, Drake Fellows went 6, gave up 5 hits, 1 earned run with 1 walk and 9 K’s. Drake was terrific. Mason Hickman finished it off going the final 3 frames giving up 4 hits, 2 earned with 0 walks and 4 K’s. What I loved about Drake’s and Mason’s performances respectively is that they were throwing strikes. I know that sounds like a simple comment, but accuracy as a pitcher is just as important as accuracy as a quarterback. it’s essential and both Drake and Mason were super accurate, always over the plate. Both pitched extremely well. Austin Martin was 4 for 5 with 2 RBIs. Philip Clarke had 2 hits and 2 ribbies in 4 at bats, and Cooper Davis and J.J. Bleday each had a pair of hits. So did Ty Duvall, who is hard to keep out of the lineup with his play behind the plate and in the batter’s box.

In the second game, Patrick Raby went 4, gave up 2 hits, 2 unearned runs with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts. We’re starting to see the Patrick Raby from 2 years ago so far this year. Like what I’m seeing out of Rabes. Kumar Rocker came in and got the victory going 3, giving up 2 hits, with 0 walks and 5 K’s. Tyler Brown pitched the 8th and did well, giving up no hits or runs with 0 walks and a K. And maybe the standout on our pitching staff so far, sophomore lefty Jake Eder cam in for the 9th and struck out all 3 batters he faced. Jake brings it mid to high 90’s and looks like he could be a heckuva closer for us. Cooper Davis had a 2 run triple and finished with 2 hits. Bleday went 2 for 3 with 2 Ribeyes and Philip Clarke hit a solo shot. We had an error in the first game committed by Drake and Austin Martin and Jayson Gonzalez committed errors in the second game. Need to shore that up. I know Corbs is concerned and working with the guys on that.

We play today at 4:30 vs Southeast Missouri State at 4:30 PM CT at the Hawk. Southpaw Zach King will get the start for us. Zach is 0-0 with a 2.25 ERA. He’ll face lefty Austin Sachse of SEMO. Sachse is 1-0 with a 0.oo ERA. So should be a challenge for our hitters. The game will be broadcast by SEC Network+ on the computer.

We play Austin Peay tomorrow at 4:30 PM CT at the Hawk. Pitchers are to be determined. That game will also be broadcast by SEC Network+.

So, good start to the season. Our defense needs to improve, and it should. Some guys just trying to figure some things out. We’re still making good plays in the field, just need to tighten it up a little bit in the infield. Outfield of Davis,, Pat DeMarco and Bleday are doing well. Very good defensive outfield. With Stephen Scott at first as Julian Infante is out at present, Austin Martin at 2nd, Ethan Paul at short and Gonzalez or Harrison Ray at 3rd, those are great athletes and good fielders typically. It’s early in the season, so they’re just working the kinks out. Need to get better defensively though.

Basketball

After being down by 23 in Tuscaloosa in the first half to Alabama, our team kept competing hard and only lost 68-61 to the Crimson Tide on Saturday. I thought we outplayed them from the 4 minute mark of the first half through the entire second half. Still trying to get that chemistry, but we really showed signs particularly in the second half on Saturday. Simi definitely showed signs as did Yanni Wetzell. I always like what I see out of Aaron Nesmith. Saben didn’t have his best game, but he always plays hard. That’s the thing about this team; despite the record, they give it everything they’ve got. There is never a lack of effort. They’re going to figure it out soon hopefully tomorrow night versus Florida at home on the SEC Network at 8 PM CT. I enjoy watching our team play. You can tell they’re well coached. Bryce to me is a phenomenal coach despite some of the bad press he’s getting. He’s going to get this thing turned around. Big opportunity tomorrow night at home to get our first SEC victory. It’s incremental steps for this basketball team. I like this group and we’ve got most all of them returning next season except for Joe Toye. But I want to see Joe have some success this season. If we can just get tomorrow night, we’ll see how it feels and maybe get hot the rest of this season. Please hang in there with these guys. Much better times are ahead for this team under Bryce.

Thursday: Geoff McDonald and VU Women’s Tennis

Friday: Scott Limbaugh and VU Men’s Golf

Both teams are very exciting as are women’s golf and men’s tennis. Will have more on those 2 teams as well in the coming days.

Football

Football cranks up for the spring tomorrow. Spring game is Saturday, March 30th at 11 AM CT on the SEC Network. Some exciting players back with Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Kalija Lipscomb, and Jared Pinkney. The quarterback battle will be very interesting with 5 guys competing for QB1. Will have a much more in-depth report next week. Sorry I’m a little late with it, but will have it at some point next week. Thanks.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am

The tour heads to pristine Pebble Beach for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. Pretty solid field. The weather has been an issue there with 60 MPH winds knocking down structures last Saturday and a lot of rain, up to 5 inches in the area. There is rain expected for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and winds up to 15 MPH which should make it interesting and challenging for the players.

TV Coverage

Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 2-5 PM CT; Saturday, 12-1:45 PM CT, Golf Channel, 2-5 PM CT CBS; Sunday, 12-1:45 PM CT, Golf Channel, 2-5:30 PM CT CBS

Pebble Beach is 6,816 yards, Par 72. The first 3 rounds will also be played at Spyglass Hills GC (6,953 yards, Par 72) and Monterey Peninsula (6,956, par 72). The key holes at Pebble to me are 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 17 and 18. No.6 is a 506 yard, par 5 where the second shot is up a very steep hill, it’s a blind shot and there are bunkers surrounding the green. The Pacific is off to the right for any player who cuts it a little too much. No.7 is the signature hole on the course, a 106 yard par 3, that could either be a lob wedge or a 5 iron depending on the wind. The weekend may challenge the players with club selection as there will be strong gusts. There is trouble around and behind the green. No.8 is a 427 yard par 4 with a blind tee shot and a second shot over the Pacific to a green that is severely sloped from back to front and with bunkers surrounding it. No.8 is considered by many to be the toughest hole on the course. No.9 is a difficult, 481 yard par 4 with the Pacific on the right hand side, a long second shot over a bunker in front of the green, and, like most all of Pebble’s greens, a small size green. The greens are poa annua, which can be tricky to putt on. The 14th is the number 1 handicap hole. It’s 572 yards, a par 5. It’s a dogleg right then comes back to the left. Most likely a 3 shot hole this weekend with the wind. The green is elevated with a false front that can be tricky to negotiate . Bunkers are on the front right and front left. No. 17 is a 177 yard par 3 and home to the famous Tom Watson line in the 1982 U.S. Open when, after his caddie, Bruce Edwards, told him to get it close on his chip, Watson responded, “I’m not going to get it close, I’m going to make it.” He sank it and won the ‘82 Open over the great Jack Nicklaus. No. 18 is a 543 yard , par 5 with the Pacific covering the entire left side of the hole, so any player who overcooks it will be in the ocean. There are a couple of trees in the middle of the fairway that make it interesting if a player gets behind one of them off the tee. The green has a trap front right and is a larger green for Pebble Beach. Many magical moments there including Graeme McDowell’s 2 putt on Sunday in 2010 to win the U.S. Open on Father’s Day with his father in attendance from Northern Ireland.. Pebble Beach will once again host the U.S. Open, June 13-16th. So that’s pretty awesome stuff.

Defending champion; Ted Potter Jr. Won by 3 over Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Chez Reavie. Shot 69, -3, to finish the tournament -16.

Last week: Rickie Fowler imploded and almost lost the Waste Management Open after having a 5 shot 54 hole lead going into Sunday. A disastrous triple bogey on Number 11 in which he chipped his 3rd shot over the green into the water, then as he had dropped his ball and was surveying the green, his ball, with the course very wet from hard rain, rolled back into the water costing him another shot. He hit on the green in 6 and sank his 17 footer for triple. He bogeyed No.12 and was a shot behind Brandon Grace. But Grace faltered and Fowler birdied 15 and 17 and survived for a 2 shot victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Matt Adams and Geoff Shackelford were discussing on Golf Channel’s Alternate Shot segment whether Fowler is a closer or not after shooting 73 last Sunday to win. Shackelford said he is since he’s won the Players Championship, but Adams didn’t think so pointing to the fact that he has had 7, 54 hole leads and shot over par on Sunday and lost. I side with Adams. Until Fowler can close a deal in a major, and finish stronger on Sundays, I say he’s not a closer at all. Dustin Johnson won the Saudi International last week on the European Tour. He’s got it cookin it looks like.

Winner

You’ve got 4 time winner Phil Mickelson, 2017 winner Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, who has 5 top finishes since his Masters victory and a whole host of others who can win this tournament as evidence of Potter winning last year and Vaughn Taylor winning in 2016. Three weeks ago, Adam Long won the Desert Classic, so it’s roll the dice many weeks on the PGA Tour with all the talent and depth on tour. Dustin Johnson has 2 victories here in 2009 and 2010, though he did implode in the 2010 U.S. Open shooting 82 and losing a major he had a 4 shot lead in going into the final day. He has 7 top 5 finishes in the 11 events he’s played in here. He’s hard to go against, but I will. I’m taking a guy who finished tied second here last year with Day, Mickelson and Johnson and has been so close to winning on tour. He finished tied for 4th last week at the Waste Management. Taking the 37 year old from Wichita, Kansas. Give me William Chesney “Chez” Revie.

Chez Revie

Sleeper

James Hahn

Like Reavie to be holding up the trophy at Pebble Beach on Sunday (Photo, Sporting News).

Like Reavie to be holding up the trophy at Pebble Beach on Sunday (Photo, Sporting News).

Patriots and Rams compete for the Lombardi Trophy

Super Bowl 53

New England Patriots (13-5) vs. Los Angeles Rams (15-3)

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, 71,000

5:30 PM CT

CBS

Jim, Tony, Trace, Evan Washburn, Jay Feely, Gene Steratore, Officiating Analyst

Refs: John Parry, After a disastrous NFC Championship, hoping Parry and his crew don’t mess this game up.

Patriots by 2 1/2

Sean McVay, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald have had a spectacular season though there is an asterisk by it after the blown pass interference call in the Saints game by Bill Vinovich’s “All Star” crew . Not only did the California side judge and California back judge blow the pass interference penalty, there were also numerous holding and a couple of other interference penalties not called by the Vinovich crew. It was a catastrophe in officiating.

But the Rams are a solid outfit and Gurley, if he shows up this time after not performing in the NFC Divisional or Championship rounds, can be a difference maker.

With that said, I’m not going against Brady, Belichick, Gronk, Sony Michel and Julian Edelman. The offensive line is not talked about, but they’re a stellar group. I see them holding Donald and company in check. I like Brady and Belichick to hoist their 6th Lombardi Trophy Sunday Night.

Patriots 34, Rams 31

Awesome effort by Astra, basketball, baseball, football, women's tennis, men's and women's golf and men's tennis

Astra Sharma fell just a little short at the Australian Open, falling to Greece's Maria Sikkari, 1-6,4-6, in the second round. Still an awesome showing by Astra getting through 3 rounds of qualifying and defeating 3 talented Russian players and winning her first match over Priscilla Hon of Australia in 3 sets. The 23 year old was in her first major and there are a lot of tournaments left which she can do well in and then qualify for the second Slam of the year, the French Open, in May. Awesome stuff from AS. Will keep you posted on her progress. I will talk to Geoff McDonald soon on Astra and his 2019 team, which looks very promising.

Also, basketball in action tonight facing South Carolina, which is 3-0 in SEC play. We’re now 0-3 and 9-7. We need to turn it around starting tonght. 6 PM CT on the SEC Network. We lost a lot when Darius Garland went down with a torn meniscus, losing Darius for the year. But we've got good talent that is still learning to play together and get the chemistry right. Tonight would be a great start to turning this season around. Know Bryce is doing everything possible to get this team to start playing good basketball. He's got 2 signees and a commit for the 2019 class. We have 2, 4 star signees, 6'8" power forward Dylan Disu of Pflugerville, Texas and 6'5" shooting guard Austin Crowley of Wichita, Kansas. Both are having excellent senior seasons. We got a commit from high 3 star Scotty Pippen, THE Scottie Pippen's son. Scotty Jr is a 6'0 point guard and a high 3 star, who could become a 4 star before the season is over. He's a terrific player. So a lot to be optimistic about with most all of our players returning next season. Just need to get it crankin this year. I know with Saben, Simi, Joe Toye, Maxwell Evans, Aaron Nesmith, etc we have the talent to turn it around. Big game tonight. Will have a report tomorrow. Need to get it done at home tonight. Hope we have a big crowd because this team CAN turn it around.

VU baseball looks electric. We are ranked No.1 in the country in the D-1 Baseball preseason poll. We are No.2 by Collegiate Baseball and No.3 by Perfect Game. I don't know about you, but I believe the D1 poll is the most accurate assessment of this team. With Austin Martin, Stephen Scott, Ethan Paul, JJ Bleday, Pat DeMarco, Philip Clarke and many other bats and gloves to go along with a massive amount of arms, there is a lot to be excited about with this baseball team. Interviewing Corbs next Monday. Will have that interview next Tuesday on the blog.

Football signed 19 players in the 2019 class and Coach Mason is looking for more. We got size and athleticism in this class. Very good class to back up an outstanding 2018 class. We also got graduate transfer quarterback Riley Neal from Bowling Green who put up some excellent numbers last season. He'll join the Deuce, Deuce Wallace, who is back, along with talented redshirt freshman Allan Walters and talented incoming freshman Jamil Muhammad in the quarterback competition this spring. We have good options to replace Kyle, who should be drafted in the April NFL draft and should have a very good carer in the National Football League along with Joejuan Williams who declared for the draft after his junior sesaon. We have some other seniors like Jordan Griffin, Dare Odeyinbo, Justin Skule, Bruno Reagan and Josh Smith, who can make it to the next level. So it'll be exciting to watch our guys’ progress.

I like the pieces we have returning for 2019. Ke'Shawn Vaughn is returning. The Mamba is primed for a huge season next year. Jared Pinkney is coming back at tight end, which is huge news. So is Kalija Lipscomb.  Our offense could be electric. Coach Mason will be hiring a new offensive coordinator as Coach Andy Ludwig took the offensive coordinator job at Utah. It’s a great opportunity to open the offense up with so many tremendous athletes. We’ve got the pieces in place to have a good defense on all 3 levels. A lot of good players in the secondary, d line will be stronger. Need to fill Jordan Griffin’s and Josh Smith’s positions at linebacker, but we’ve got talent led by 2018 high 4 star Alston Orji. So 2019 looks riveting for the team. The SEC is not getting any easier, but we’re getting better. Open with Georgia at home, which is tough, but we’ve got a shot with a lot of hard work in the weight room with Coach James Dobson and then in spring and fall drills. Like the team we have returning.

Will have the rundown on our 2019 class coming up in the next week or so. Sorry I’m late getting this out. Been kind of jammed up during the bowl season and NFL playoffs, along with some other stuff. Will get it out soon with complete breakdown of each player.

Also, baseball interview coming up with Corbs, football signee breakdown, interview with Geoff McDonald on his 2019 women’s tennis team, Men’s Golf preview with the great Scott Limbaugh, and Women’s Golf looks very exciting. Will check in on that. Men’s tennis, which looks promising as well, I’ll check in on them. So a lot to discuss.

‘Great effort by Astra, will keep you posted on her progress as she matriculates towards the season’s next slam, the French. Basketball in a key game tonight.

Predictions for the Australian Open

The fortnight in Melbourne Australia for playing of the 107th Australian Open begins tomorrow night at 6 PM CT on ESPN2. ESPN2 will provide coverage for the Open up through the women’s semifinals on Wednesday, January 23rd @ 9 PM CT.

ESPN will cover the men’s first semifinal on Thursday, Jan. 24th at 2:30 AM CT, and the second semifinal on Friday, 1-25 at 2:30 AM CT. ESPN will also carry the women’s final on Saturday, January, 26th at 2:30 AM CT and then will broadcast the men’s final Sunday, 1-27, at 2:30 AM CT.

So who’ll win in Melbourne where temperatures on Monday and Tuesday will be 99 and 93 on Wednesday before cooling off for the rest of the fortnight, at least that is what is predicted. So early rounds will be a battle of endurance, will and survival for the men and women on the hard courts.

I like the way Naomi Osaka defeated Serena in that controversial U.S. Open final last September. She was booed loudly in a classless manner by the New York City fans after her victory over Serena who had exploded during the match at an official who had accused her of looking at her coaching box for coaching. Players have been warned repeatedly about this and Serena was looking at her box, so the call was made. The fans took Serena’s side though she acting very classless and out of control, not becoming of a female tennis player. It was typical Serena bad behavior yet Osaka controlled the emotions and was iron. I really like this 21 year old from Japan to excel on tour this year and in the future. She plays like a younger Serena and could dominate in years to come. But I do like Serena to emerge in the top half of the women’s draw, however I’m picking her to fall in the final to Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Kerber over Serena 7-5, 4-6, 6-3

Sleeper, Osaka

She’s got the strokes to be elite. She has felt a lot of pressure since winning the U.S. but I see her stepping up in Melbourne.

Like Kerber over Serena in Melbourne (Photo, WTA).

Like Kerber over Serena in Melbourne (Photo, WTA).


Men

On the men’s side, it’s hard to pick against Novak Djokovic. I like Novak to play Roger in the finals on January 27th and hoist his 7th Australian Open title trophy and his 15th all time major. He’s creeping up on Rafa, who has 18, and Fed, who has 20. Fed is 37 years old, and Rafa and Djoker are 31.

Djoker over Federer, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3

Sleeper, Kei Nishikori

I like the 29 year old Japanese player to have a shot. He just won at Brisbane a couple of weeks ago, and is playing really excellent tennis.

Gotta take the Djoker for his 15th Slam title and 7th in Melbourne (Photo, Wikipedia).

Gotta take the Djoker for his 15th Slam title and 7th in Melbourne (Photo, Wikipedia).