'We stay in our lane': How Vanderbilt baseball team reacted to news of NC State no-contest

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OMAHA, Neb. — The Vanderbilt baseball team was sound asleep at 1:10 a.m. Saturday. They'd gone to bed anticipating a rubber match against NC State in the afternoon.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, though, woke up at 1:30 and saw a message from athletics director Candice Lee. It was then that he learned the game had been declared a no-contest and the Commodores had advanced to the championship series.

Corbin stayed up the rest of the night processing the news with his wife, Maggie, and figuring out how to tell the team.

"With the understanding that they were going to play, and then not playing, I just wanted to get to them as quickly as possible. So we did," Corbin said. "I'm sure it was a little bit confusing, but we used yesterday as a day to talk through it, and I told them that once we get to the ballpark today, we move forward."

'LOW EVEN FOR THE NCAA': Reactions to NCAA's decision to oust NC State from College World Series

Jun 25, 2021; Omaha, Nebraska, USA; NC State Wolfpack head coach Elliott and Vanderbilt Commodores head coach Tim Corbin greet each other prior to the game at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 25, 2021; Omaha, Nebraska, USA; NC State Wolfpack head coach Elliott and Vanderbilt Commodores head coach Tim Corbin greet each other prior to the game at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt (48-16) will face Mississippi State (48-17) in the best-of-three games College World Series finals beginning Monday (6 p.m., ESPN2).

Corbin began his news conference ahead of the national championship series Sunday expressing sympathy to the Wolfpack and their fanbase for what happened. He said the Commodores would've preferred to have played the game rather than advancing by default, but that Vanderbilt had no control over the situation.

Vanderbilt chancellor Daniel Diermeier and Lee released a joint statement Sunday expressing regret for the situation but commending the team for making it this far.

"After two thrilling games between our teams, we looked forward to the opportunity to again face the Wolfpack as worthy opponents on the field," the statement read, in part. "... We feel for them as competitors and wish their student-athletes, coaches, staff and administrators nothing but full health."

Right-hander Kumar Rocker, the winning pitcher in Friday's 3-1 win over the Wolfpack, said he was upset when he heard the news and felt bad for NC State. First baseman Dominic Keegan said the team is tuning out backlash the team is facing on social media and focusing on itself.

"I understand the other side, I do," Corbin said. "We're very empathetic and sympathetic to that. But we have no control over that, regardless when anyone insinuates or what anyone says. We're just playing baseball. That's all we can do. We stay in our lane."

Corbin would not say whether he encouraged or required his players to get a COVID-19 vaccination, but did say he is "very comfortable" with the team's protocols and that he has "spent a lot of time educating the group on what this process could look like." Vanderbilt is requiring all students returning to campus this fall to receive the vaccine before the start of the semester and for staff members to be vaccinated by July 31 unless they have a medical or religious exemption.

Unlike Mississippi State, which out of precaution did not greet fans in its team hotel after its walk-off win over Texas on Saturday, Vanderbilt is not planning to change its protocols after the Wolfpack was knocked out. The Commodores' social media accounts have frequently showed the team meeting with fans and signing autographs in Omaha.

Sideline reporter Kris Budden said on the ESPN broadcast of Saturday's game between Texas and Mississippi State that Vanderbilt went through testing on Saturday and all players were cleared.

The team will be tested again Monday, according to Budden. It is not clear whether all players were tested or only ones who had not received the vaccine.

Follow Aria Gerson or on Twitter @aria_gerson.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: How Vanderbilt reacted to NC State no-contest in College World Series