There's not a person happier right now than Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin.
For the last couple of seasons, Vandy has been known as the program that had the greatest team not to make a College World Series. We, of course, are talking about the 2007 Commodores, which lost to Michigan in the Nashville Regional final despite being the top national seed with pitcher David Price leading the charge.
Thanks to a Louisville Regional title last weekend, those wearing the black and gold finally can forget about that nightmare. Instead, they can focus on this year's team, which has a chance to make the program's first CWS appearance with a road series win at Florida State this weekend.
It's quite ironic that Vandy is back in position to play for a spot in Omaha. After all, this year's club was expected to be solid. But Omaha solid? Not really.
Florida State enters the weekend with a different background.
The Seminoles began the season with incredibly high expectations and compiled a great regular-season record. Some observers, though, were worried down the stretch when the 'Noles failed to win a game in a three-game series at Clemson to end the regular season.
Since that series, the Seminoles have played a much better brand of baseball and now find themselves two wins away from returning to the CWS after a one-year hiatus.
The super regional series between the Commodores and Seminoles is expected to go three games. Look for Florida State to return to Rosenblatt Stadium, though.
|Tallahassee Super Regional: Who has the edge?|
We said last week that starting pitching and the overall pitching staff was the biggest key to the postseason for Florida State. Well, the Seminoles allowed just three runs in three games at the Norwich Regional and are in a super regional as a result.
The Seminoles are in business if they can emulate those performances this weekend against Vanderbilt. However, the Commodores enter the weekend with the superior pitching staff that has a 3.58 ERA. FSU, meanwhile, has a 4.31 ERA.
Vanderbilt is led on the mound by sophomore right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray, who is 9-5 with a 3.51 ERA in 102 2/3 innings. He has struck out 110 and walked 45, and opponents are hitting him at just a .243 clip.
Fellow weekend starters Taylor Hill (4.15, 102 IP) and Jack Armstrong (4.32, 77 IP) also have done a solid job this season, while relievers Chase Reid (3.25 ERA), Richie Goodenow (1.36 ERA), Will Clinard (2.68) and Drew Hayes (4.25) spearhead the bullpen.
For Florida State, starting pitcher Sean Gilmartin put together a solid start in Norwich this past weekend and has a 4.74 ERA in 100 2/3 innings. Brian Busch, who has a 4.24 ERA in 70 innings, also enjoyed a solid start. Reliever Daniel Bennett, meanwhile, had a fantastic outing in the regional and enters the weekend with a 2.91 ERA in 34 innings.
Also keep an eye on two-way star Mike McGee, who enters the weekend with 11 saves in 17 appearances and a fantastic 0.38 ERA in 24 innings. Teams are hitting just .103 against McGee.
Vandy's pitching staff has been more consistent the entire season. Will that trend hold true again this weekend?
Easily the most difficult category to give an edge. Neither the Commodores nor the Seminoles have an extremely powerful lineup. However, both teams have no issues hitting average or slightly above-average pitching. The problem for both teams has come against elite pitchers.
Interestingly, this series only features one elite pitcher in Sonny Gray. FSU's Sean Gilmartin has the ability to be dominant at times, too.
Though Vandy has the better batting average at .309 as compared to .300 for the Seminoles, we're giving the offensive edge – at home – to FSU.
Florida State did an adequate job at the plate at the Norwich Regional and is led at the plate by versatile outfielder Tyler Holt, who is hitting .349 with 24 doubles, three triples, 12 homers and 42 RBIs. He also is slugging .630 and has a .465 on-base percentage. Additionally, Holt has stolen 29 bases in 31 attempts.
Also keep an eye on Sherman Johnson, Mike McGee, James Ramsey, Stuart Tapley and Stephen Cardullo.
Johnson has been a huge surprise this spring and enters the series hitting .335 with eight homers and 51 RBIs. McGee is hitting .335 with 14 homers and 67 RBIs. Ramsey is hitting .291 with nine homers and 60 RBIs. Tapley is hitting .281 with seven homers and 38 RBIs, and Cardullo is hitting .277 with nine homers and 48 RBIs.
For the Commodores, Anthony Gomez, Jason Esposito and Aaron Westlake are the key cogs. Gomez is hitting .377 with two homers and 28 RBIs. Esposito is hitting .359 with 10 homers and 59 RBIs, and Westlake is hitting .308 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs.
The Commodores and Seminoles are comparable from a defensive standpoint.
Vandy enters the series with a .974 fielding percentage, and Florida State is at .971.
The advantage goes to the Commodores.
Vandy first baseman Aaron Westlake has a .984 fielding percentage, shortstop Anthony Gomez has a .971 fielding percentage and third baseman Jason Esposito has a .938 fielding percentage. Shortstop Brian Harris, though, is the key defensive cog. Harris made an outstanding grab in the final game of the Louisville Regional to potentially rob the Cardinals of a regional title. Harris has a solid .955 fielding percentage.
For Florida State, Tyler Holt is an incredibly athletic outfielder. In the infield, first baseman Jayce Boyd has a .986 fielding percentage, second baseman Devon Travis has a .977 fielding percentage, shortstop Stephen Cardullo has a .928 fielding percentage and third baseman Sherman Johnson has a .950 fielding percentage.
The Seminoles enter the weekend with more experience in a super regional situation.
Florida State was close to making another College World Series appearance last season, but fell just short in the Tallahassee Super Regional against Arkansas.
The Seminoles are ready to avenge that series loss and have a wealth of experience with Tyler Holt, Mike McGee, Stephen Cardullo and Stuart Tapley leading the way.
Vandy, meanwhile, has a plethora of young talent with sophomore pitchers Sonny Gray and Jack Armstrong part of the weekend rotation. Also, leading hitters Anthony Gomez and Jason Esposito are young. Gomez is a freshman and Esposito a sophomore.
In addition to the experience factor, the Seminoles are tough to beat at home. They enter the weekend with a fabulous 26-8 home record.
It'll be interesting to see how the Commodores fare this weekend. The last time they were in a super regional (at Texas), the series almost was over before it started.