Saturday, April 12, 2008

Masters Live Blog: Round 3

If you're looking for a professional and informative live blog from Augusta, well, you're in the wrong place (for that, check golf editor Jason Sobel's work here).

While I'm not a big golfer (my best round ever was an 88 and that came with a couple of mulligans), there are a few things in life that I love -- the Commodores, Tiger Woods and procrastination -- which makes watching the Masters the perfect Saturday afternoon activity, so feel free to join me. Don't forget to hit that refresh button and leave comments at the bottom.

CBS' coverage begins at 2:30 CT, right about the time that Vandy grad Brandt Snedeker is set to tee off. Make sure to check out today's Commodore Banter for some great links about the 2007 PGA Rookie of the Year, who is 7-under and one shot off the lead.

2:30 p.m.: Tiger Woods is 1-under through seven holes today and is 2-under for the tournament, which puts him in a tie for 14th place. When will he make his charge?

2:35 p.m.: Who is Brandt "Sneds" Snedeker? A few notes from his official PGA Tour profile:
  • Graduated Vanderbilt in 2004 with a Communications degree
  • Born December 8, 1980, in Nashville, Tenn.
  • Finished ninth on the 2006 Nationwide Tour money list to earn PGA Tour card
  • He's played in 50 events and made 36 cuts with nine top-10s and one victory
  • He's already earned a healthy $3,588,115 on tour
  • Snedeker's 168th in driving distance (274.0), but 48th in GIR (66.9%) and 66th in putting average (1.781)
2:45 p.m.: Check out Vanderbilt men's golf coach Tom Shaw's fantastic journal from Augusta. He had the privilege of caddying for amateur Michael Thompson, his former player at Tulane. Thompson nearly made the cut, and deserves even more credit for calling a penalty on himself.

2:50 p.m.: It will be interesting to see how youngsters Trevor Immelman (2006 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year) and Snedeker will handle the pressure of playing in today's final pairing.

2:55 p.m.: Snedeker just drained a long birdie putt on No. 2! How's that for nervous? Immelman, meanwhile, missed his, and Sneds is tied for the lead.

3:04 p.m.: Woods just birdied to move to 3-under and his name has now moved onto the leader board, which prompted the announcers to talk about the well-documented "Intimidation Factor." I'm not buying it. Sure, guys tend to play worse when they're paired with Tiger, but I doubt that he's in anyone's thought process right now. For example, while Snedeker is probably nervous as hell, the last thing on his mind is what Tiger made on the 10th. He's got too many other, more important things, to worry about.


T1. Immelman -8
T1. Snedeker -8
3. Flesch -7
T4. Casey
T4. Mickelson -6
6. Poulter -5
T7. O'Hair -4
T7. Cink -4
T9. Woods -3

3:25 pm.: Immelman, who has looked tense from the opening tee, just bogied No. 4, which means Snedeker is in the lead all by himself. Not sure if that's a good thing, however. In Sobel's blog, he received an e-mail from Jeremy, who played college golf at North Carolina:
Something to watch today: I've known Brandt a long time and played a good bit with him in college, etc. He loves chasing the lead, but it's a lot tougher for him to protect a lead or a good round. He only knows one way and one speed. Great player and a better guy.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

3:45 p.m.: I've been a little distracted by the Yankees-Red Sox game on FOX, but Snedeker remains steady at 8-under, holding a one-shot lead over Casey, Flesch and Immelman. Poulter and Mickelson are three shots back, while one Eldrick Woods is tied for seventh at 4-under.

4:00 pm.: Paul Casey just joined Snedeker atop the leaderboard at 8-under.

4:02 p.m.: You've got to love Snedeker's poise and demeanor. He doesn't seem to be fazed by the pressure as his up-and-down from the front bunker on No. 7 just proved. In an interview with Jim Nantz, last year's Masters champ Zach Johnson said he was impressed with the former Commodore's "nothing to lose" attitude.

4:07 p.m.: Ian Poulter just looked like me out on the course, shanking his second shot on No. 9. I blame it on the hideous plaid pants.

4:18 p.m.: Snedeker just birdied No. 8, while Casey missed his birdie putt on No. 9, which means Snedeker is all alone in first place at 9-under. A very frustrated Mr. Woods is five shots back. And the Yankees just took a 2-1 lead in the sixth.

4:28 p.m.: Snedeker finished with a bogey-free, 2-under 34 on the front nine. Looks like he's not going anywhere.

4:41 p.m.: Tiger just tapped in for birdie on No. 17, which puts him in fifth place at 5-under, four shots behind Snedeker. I can't wait for Sunday.

4:51 p.m.: Woods continues to amaze me, hitting a shot through the trees and onto the green, and ended up making a par to finish with a 4-under 68.

5:00 p.m.: In his post-round interview, Woods said he "hit the ball well all day" and had "a lot of putts that were just a touch off." There's no question that he's put himself in great position for tomorrow.

5:10 p.m.: Snedeker just picked up his first bogey of the day on No. 11, and dropped back into a tie for first with Casey and Immelman. His tee shot on the par-3 12 went far left, so he'll have a difficult up-and-down to save par.

5:20 p.m.: Snedeker has now recorded back-to-back bogies to fall to 7-under, one stroke behind Casey, Flesch and Immelman. Woods is in the clubhouse in fifth place all by himself, now just three shots back.

5:32 p.m.: Snedeker just bogied again, dropping to 6-under. Let's see if he can keep himself together down the stretch because there's plenty of golf left to be played. And it's not the worst thing in the world for Snedeker to fall behind a little bit. Can you imagine the attention he would've received had he entered the final round in the lead? And as Jeremy pointed out earlier, the ex-Commodore plays better when he's chasing.

5:43 p.m.: How's that for mental toughness? Snedeker bounced back in a big way, picking up a birdie on No. 14.

5:45 p.m.: LEADERBOARD

1. Immelman -10
2. Casey -8
3. Flesch -7
4. Snedeker -7
5. Woods -5
6. Cink -4
7. Mickelson -4

5:54 p.m.: Get excited for a Woods-Mickelson pairing tomorrow. According to Jason Sobel, it will be the first time that the two have ever played together in the final round of a major.

5:58 p.m.: Snedeker stuck his approach close on No. 15, while Immelman's shot came dangerously close to rolling back into the water. I still don't get how it stayed up, but Immelman knows he got very lucky there as one more turn and the ball was gone.

6:04 p.m.: You've got to love Snedeker, who just picked up another birdie to move into sole possession of second place at 8-under, two back of Immelman. Casey and Flesch are three back at 7-under.

6:22 p.m.: We've got a 9-way tie for seventh place at 2-under. It'd be tough to imagine any of these guys winning the green jacket.


That means we've got six golfers in contention on Sunday:

Immelman -10
Flesch -8
Snedeker -8
Casey -7
Woods -5
Cink -4

6:37 p.m.: Quite a day for Snedeker, who followed up three consecutive bogies with three birdies to post a 2-under 70. He's 9-under overall, two back of Immelman. The two youngsters will be in the final pairing tomorrow and I can't see either of them getting much sleep tonight. It's going to be a day that they'll never forget.

6:41 p.m.: That's all I've got for tonight. I'm heading to Friday's for some dinner, but I'll be back tomorrow for one of the most enjoyable days in sports. The fact a former Commodore is in the hunt makes it even better. As for Tiger, six shots is a lot to overcome, but of course you can't rule him out. Thanks so much for reading and have a great night.

Video of the Day: Don't try this at home

Locked in a tight race for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award, Kobe Bryant recently pulled off a stunt that Chris Paul could never do -- jump over a moving Aston Martin. Or did he?

There's no question that the video is fake, but props to Kobe and the editing guys for a job well done.

Commodore Banter (4/12)

The entire world will get to know Vanderbilt grad Brandt Snedeker this weekend as the 2007 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year finds himself in second place at the Masters at 7-under, one stroke behind Trevor Immelman and seven strokes ahead of Tiger Woods.

Snedeker admits that even he is surprised.

"I've been playing great golf and I certainly have 100% confidence in myself," he said, "but if I had told you at the beginning of the week that thought I was going to be in second place, you probably would have thought I was crazy, and I probably would have thought you were right."

Snedeker is the final pairing today and will tee off at 1:40 CT. You can see the leaderboard here. One thing's for certain: Snedeker is living the dream.

"You know you ask anybody in my family at all, they will tell you, (the) only thing I said I was going to do my whole life was be a professional golfer," he said. "I went to Vanderbilt for that safety net of, if I didn't become one, I would have a great education to fall back on. You know, it's one of though things, growing up I always loved golf for some reason. I always played it; never had any inkling of doing something else. I'm one of the few lucky people in this world who get to do what they love to do."

You can read the rest of Snedeker Q & A here.

Snedeker stands second to none, writes Joe Biddle.

Snedeker's creativity and imagination on the golf course has golf legend Tom Watson impressed, writes Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post.

The media loves the ex-Commodore.

The youngster's already got an entourage.

Snedeker hit one of the best shots of the tournament, chipping in with a lob wedge instead of a putter on the sixth hole. "I figured it would be OK if I didn't take a divot," he said. "The green's no worse for the wear."

In other news, the women's bowling team refuses to lose. After dropping their first match of the double-elimination tournament, the Commodores won the next three to advance to the semifinals today at 4:30 CT. The finals are at 7 p.m. CT and will be aired live ESPNU.

Congrats to senior Margie Curran, who became the lacrosse program's all-time leader in assists and points in Vandy's 17-7 victory over Ohio State yesterday.

Hitting was contagious in Vandy's 15-8 victory over Mississippi State Friday night in Starkville. The Commodores improved to 22-10 overall, 6-6 in the Southeastern Conference.

Mike Minor's recent struggles continued, giving up seven runs on nine hits in six innings of work, but the offense picked him up. A few notables from the box score:

David Macias: 4-for-6, homer, 2 RBI, three runs scored
Parker Hanks: 1-for-2, homer, 3 RBI
Pedro Alvarez: 3-for-5, 3 runs scored
Ryan Flaherty: 2-for-5, homer, 2 runs scored
Dominic de la Osa: 3-for-4, 2 RBI
Shea Robin: 2-for-5, 3 RBI

Caleb Cotham gets the start this afternoon (2 p.m. CT).

Friday, April 11, 2008

Video of the Day: Brandt Snedeker

This may not be the most exciting video we'll post, but I figured it was appropriate given the performance of Vandy grad Brandt Snedeker, who finds himself in second place (-7) at the Masters after shooting 69-68. He's one stroke behind Trevor Immelman and eight ahead of Tiger Woods.

For the golf fans out there, notice how smooth Snedeker's swing is. It looks just like mine...

Commodore Banter (4/11)

Don't look now, but Vanderbilt grad Brandt Snedeker is tied for the lead in the second round of the Masters at 6-under. How cool is that? Follow his round here. Also check out ESPN's Jason Sobel's excellent live blog from Augusta (if you scroll down, there's a great Vandy mention).

Snedeker is writing a Masters' diary for the Tennessean.

"He reminds me of when I was 25," PGA legend Bob Watson said of Snedeker after watching the youngster shoot a first-round 69, one shot off the lead. "He hits the ball high and long, and he hits the ball a lot straighter than I did when I was 25. He's a good young man. I like his attitude and I like his manners. I certainly like his golf swing.''

That's quite the compliment, writes Joe Biddle.

Make no mistake about it, Snedeker is here to win.

There's another Vanderbilt connection at the Masters as men's golf coach Tom Shaw is caddying for Michael Thompson, his former player at Tulane. Shaw is keeping an awesome journal for VU Commodores.

In other news, the Vandy baseball team travels to Mississippi State for a three-game series this weekend. On the hill tonight is sophomore Mike Minor, now a marked man, as Brett Hait writes.

Tim Corbin is a baller, writes ESPN's Chris Low.

While it won't be easy to replace Pedro Alvarez next season, it looks like the Commodores have pretty good replacement waiting in the wings in Joe Loftus, a third baseman from Holy Angels High School in Minnesota. Check out this comment from his head coach:
"Of the 22 (home runs) he has hit, probably 17 have been at least 400 feet. It's not 'if' when he hit one, but 'how far'. He hit one at Farmington that we estimated at 500 feet. The crowd was pretty boisterous that day, but when he hit that ball the place got dead silent.''

USA Today ranks Earl Bennett as the ninth-best wide receiver in the upcoming NFL Draft.

And, in case you were wondering, there is a tornado warning here in Nashville. After being in the Georgia Dome for one back in March, it seems like these things won't leave me alone...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Snedeker in Third After Masters First round

I was getting ready to post about Nashville native and Vanderbilt graduate Brandt Snedeker taking the lead into the clubhouse after today's first round in Augusta, and I think I might have jinxed him. Just as I began writing, he went long with his approach on 18, ultimately leading to his first bogey of the day after lipping out a put to save par.

Regardless, he still shot a 3 under 69 to put him behind Justin Rose and Trevor Immelman for third as play finishes up. I would say that's noteworthy enough, so I'm posting anyway. Keep an eye on him throughout the weekend, although I probably won't post again for fear of jinxing him. You can keep yourself up to date with this live leaderboard if you're sitting in class like I am.

Ranking SEC football coaches

The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart recently ranked the Southeastern Conference football coaches in this order. He makes a number of good points, but I can't help but disagree. Before getting into my list, it's important to establish the criteria for "best" so here's what I considered in making my selections:
  • Success: Do they win?
  • Recruit: Do they bring in the nation's best?
  • Coaching: Who has the best play-calling or makes the best half-time adjustments?
  • Motivation: Do they get their team fired up to play?
  • Resources: Do they do more with less (Bobby Johnson) or simply take advantage of a fertile recruiting area?
  • "It" Factor: If you were a high school senior and this coach came to your home, would you want to play for him?
With that said, here's my list. Don't like it? Leave your own in the comments below.

1. Mark Richt, Georgia. He's one of just six coaches to win two SEC titles in his first five years, and meets pretty much every criteria. Plus, he's not afraid to find creative ways to motivate his team.

2. Urban Meyer, Florida. He's been successful everywhere he's coached and is in the process of building an absolute juggernaut in Gainesville.

3. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn. The Tigers have been a model of consistency under Tuberville, winning at least nine games the past four seasons, earning at least a share of the SEC West title in five of the past 10 and beating Alabama in seven of the past eight.

4. Nick Saban, Alabama. Say what you want about "The Nicktator," not only can the guy recruit, but he can coach.

5. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina. If you're judging by the past, then the Ol' Ball Coach should be higher on this list. If you're judging by the present, then he should probably be lower. We'll compromise and put him here.

6.Les Miles, LSU. Yes, the Tigers won the BCS title, but they did it in spite of Miles rather than because of him. If you don't think LSU would prefer Saban to Miles, you're crazy.

7. Phil Fulmer, Tennessee. You have to respect Fulmer's resume, but facts are facts: the Vols haven't won the SEC since 1998.

8. Rich Brooks, Kentucky. Getting fans in Lexington to care about football is no easy task and Brooks has done just that, leading the Wildcats to two straight bowl games.

9. Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State. The first black coach in SEC history has gone about rebuilding the Bulldogs the right way.

10. Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt. There's no doubt that Johnson gets more out of less and has significantly increased the talent level in Nashville, but until he leads the Commodores to a bowl game, he doesn't deserve to be any higher on this list.

11. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss. Fairly of unfairly, Nutt was pushed out of Arkansas, so let's see if he can do better than Youtube-favorite Coach O at Ole Miss.

12. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas. Forget wins and losses, I would never, under any circumstances, want my son to play for this coach.

Video of the Day: I am Tiger Woods

In the spirit of The Masters, which got underway today, I figured I'd post one my favorite Tiger Woods commercials. While I'm not a huge golf fan, there's nothing like watching Tiger contend for a green jacket on Masters Sunday.

Commodore Banter (4/10)

The bowling team might be as good in the classroom as it is at getting bowling strikes.  

Don't look now, but the baseball team shares something in common with last year's champions, writes Jarred Amato.  Meanwhile, they improved to 21-10 with the victory over Austin Peay.  

As signing day nears, here's more talk on Brad Tinsley.  

One sports blog lists its top basketball sleepers, a Mr. Shan Foster appears.  

Is Coach Johnson really one of the top 10 coaches in the SEC?

Chris Williams is in the top 14 picks of the NFL draft in this mock draft as well as this one.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dores push through rough stretch

Vanderbilt (21-10, 5-6 Southeastern Conference) will not have as many victories or All-Americans as it did a year ago when it went 46-10 and won the SEC regular season and tournament titles, nor will it finish as high in the rankings.

But, in a sport that depends so much on being hot at the right time, it will still have a chance to accomplish the only goal that matters - getting to Omaha - as long as it continues to get better. Winning midweek games over Western Kentucky and Austin Peay was certainly a good start.

Make sure to check out my column on about Vandy's ability to stay focused on the big picture, even during a losing streak.

"I told the kids, 'We didn't go through this last year,'" said coach Tim Corbin. "Maybe we should have. Maybe it would've helped us. Now we're going through some tougher times that I think if we can withstand them, will make us a much better ball club."

And if you haven't already, check out a couple of interesting Q & A's that I've done this week:

BASEBALL: Vandy 8 Austin Peay 1

Five pitchers, all sophomores or younger, combined to stifle the Austin Peay Governors at Hawkins Field Wednesday night as Vanderbilt cruised to an easy 8-1 victory. The Governors put men on base in every inning but one but scored just once, in the sixth on a bloop single.

Freshman Chase Reid started and earned the win, pitching two shutout innings and striking out two. The freshman lowered his ERA to a sparkling 1.33 for the season. Jason Cunningham, Drew Hayes and Sean Bierman threw two innings apiece, and Mark Lamm slammed the door, striking out the final hitter.

Hayes relieved Cunningham in the fifth with runners on the corners and none out but managed to escape the jam, getting two hitters to pop out and then getting the Governors' best hitter, third baseman Tyler Farrar, to fly out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

The short homestand was just what the doctor ordered for a pitching staff that had been getting roughed up over the weekend. The Commodores yielded just two runs in 18 innings against Western Kentucky and Austin Peay.

The hitting was just as consistent as the pitching: the Commodores put men on base in all but one inning, except they capitalized on their opportunities, jumping out to a 5-0 lead and never looking back.

Shortstop Ryan Flaherty led the attack with three hits, including a home run to right-center in the third inning. Also, Pedro Alvarez broke a hitless streak of seven at-bats with an opposite field RBI double in the sixth.

Vanderbilt (21-10, 5-6 SEC) resumes conference play this weekend in Starksville against Mississippi State.

Are you bored in class?

For those of you who are surfing the net on your laptop during lecture, SportsVU has a new bookmark. One of the best sports games ever, Tecmo Super Bowl, is now available to play online. I know I have spent countless hours playing this Nintendo classic. Just click here to play, and if you are in class, make sure the sound is off.

Bonus trivia question: What players in this game (1991 season) are still active?

Video of the Day: It's Dicky V, Baby!

Few have done as much for the game of basketball as Dick Vitale, who was recently elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. While you can knock him for his obsession with the ACC, you've got to respect his passion and dedication to the sport, as well as his involvement with the Jimmy V Foundation. Here's a look at his emotional Hall of Fame speech.

Q & A with Derek Johnson

Vanderbilt's Derek Johnson, one of the nation's best pitching coaches, sat down with The Sports VU following the Commodores' 5-1 victory over Western Kentucky to talk about a number of topics including, Nick Christiani's outing and second-half expectations for his staff.

Sports VU: How important was it for you guys to get off to a good start this week?
Derek Johnson: It was obviously important for us coming off the weekend, but probably more important for (Christiani). He’s kind of been back and forth, had some good outings but inconsistent. So for him to go as long as he did in the ball game was huge.

SV: What was the key for Nick tonight?
DJ: It’s the same as it always is with him. It’s being able to throw the ball across the plate and it’s being down in the zone, where he can use his defense, and he did that tonight. He mixed his pitches well and was down in the zone for the most part and they didn’t hacks off of him.

SV: He said being able to throw the off-speed for strikes was important.
DJ: Yeah, it was huge, but just overall, he has a tendency to be up in the zone and when he is, he gets flat and that’s when things don’t go well for him so just his ability to command the zone better tonight was a big deal.

SV: Confident that Nick will pick it up in the second half of the season?
DJ: I think if he pitches like he has in the fall, then I feel very confident. Up until this point, he’s been inconsistent. He’s shown more confidence in what he’s doing out there as of late and that’s a good sign so my confidence goes up every time he goes out there and gives us a good performance.

SV: With Brett Jacobson, another junior, is it a similar situation?
DJ: Very similar. Both (have been) up in the zone. The bottom line for us to be the pitching staff that we want to be and that we need to be and to be able to play through the postseason, those two guys have to help us, and they know that. Both of them know that. It’s a situation where if we can get some consistency going from them, the younger guys have held their own, we should be in good shape.

SV: Both guys seem to have the tools to be successful, so is it just a matter of putting it all together?
DJ: It’s putting it together. The bottom line is we’re in the second half of the season. The first half sometimes is inconsistent. It’s not what you want it to be, but if you have a good plan, which they do, and you work at it, which they do, then consistency can come. In the second half, that’s what we’re looking for.

SV: Coach Corbin said yesterday that this team has been a joy to coach because of the fact that things haven’t gone smoothly and guys have been tested. Would you agree?
DJ: It’s absolutely a process. Yeah, we didn’t have hiccups last year. We were 20-3 at this time and nothing was wrong. There aren’t many baseball seasons that are that way. Most seasons will have an up and down or peak or valley, and you’ve got to find out what kids are going to be like and what they’re going to do when that happens. We’re finding that out now.

SV: Thoughts on the freshmen’s performance thus far?
DJ: I like them. It’s very similar to those older guys we were talking about. They’ve had their ups and downs. You can’t call them consistent, but they’ve gone out there and thrown strikes and you know what, you’ll take that. Now it’s that second half, you turn it up a notch.

SV: Do you think the book is finally coming out on some of the younger guys?
DJ: I think overall for us to be successful it’s not about what other hitters do; it’s about what we do and how we go about our business and how we adjust to things that are going on. Not so much about what hitter is standing up there or what team we’re playing.

SV: Thoughts on the younger guys getting adjusted to pitching on the road?
DJ: If you look at our numbers, they’re way better at home than they are on the road, and I haven’t been a part of many baseball teams where that hasn’t held true, especially with a younger staff. We’ve got to learn to pitch a little better on the road and I think we will.

SV: Was Minor’s performance last weekend just a matter of not matching up well with Ole Miss, which had a number of right-handers?
DJ: It might have been a bad match-up, but I just think he didn’t have his best performance. He didn’t pitch terribly; he just didn’t pitch like we were used to seeing.

SV: Are you confident that the staff can get to the point that you need it to be by the end of the season?
DJ: I like our younger guys. They work at it, they have good arms, they’re going to be really good and it’s one of two things: they’ll either be good next year or at the end of this year. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

SV: Weekend rotation?
DJ: We’re still kind of looking. We know Mikie is pitching Friday and past that we’re kind of looking at our options and seeing what the best fit is.

Commodore Banter (4/9)

One sports blog still thinks Pedro Alvarez looks like the No. 1 overall pick in this June's draft.  

The Commodores finally won as they beat Western Kentucky 5-1.  

How much money do you think the Women's SEC Tournament added to the Middle Tennessee economy?

The Men's Golf team finished fifth in Mississippi

JeJuan Brown is visiting Arkansas this weekend and there's word he took some advice from his friend, O.J. Mayo.

If good is to come out of Keegan Bell's transferring, it might be that standout point guard Brad Tinsley might sign with us.  Jesse Johnson of wrote a great piece on what it's coming down to for Tinsley.  There's word within this piece that Tinsley's incredibly impressive YouTube video dates back to his sophomore year in high school.  From all of us at The Sports VU, we hope this goes down.

I was a big fan of Coach Self through the tournament.  He's poised, magnanimous, and genuine, but as the talk has already shifted to his contract and to his future plans, I'm not sure how well this reflects on him.  

In case you missed our...
Q&A's with 
Keegan Bell
Jamont GordonCaleb CothamCurt CasaliMerideth Marsh,Jonathan WhiteChristina WirthShea Robin, Vijay PaulRyan Preston,Keegan BellNick Cromydas.

Christiani lifts Vandy past Hilltoppers

Junior Nick Christiani gave up one run on five hits in 6.2 innings while striking out six and walking three to lead the Commodores (20-10, 5-6 SEC) past Western Kentucky 5-1 Tuesday night at Hawkins Field. David Macias went 4-for-5 and Dominic de la remained locked in, finishing 3-for-5, to pace the offense.

After the game, Christiani sat down with The Sports VU to talk a little about his performance.

Sports VU: How important was it to come out tonight and make a statement after losing three over the weekend?
Nick Christiani: Any time you get swept, you come out the next game and you’ve still got that feeling a little bit from the weekend so it was good to hit well, to pitch well and play good defense. It was a good win…I had that one inning where I lost it a little bit, but I just tried to throw strikes and let our defense make plays.

SV: What was working well for you?
NC: I was able to throw my off-speed pitches for strikes. I started throwing the curve ball in, and sliders and changeups, and locating the fastball too, but keeping hitters off balance with the off-speed was great.

SV: For you individually, what your goals going forward?
NC: I just want to be consistent and know that I can go out there and give a good outing every single time and help the team.

SV: With some of the younger pitchers struggling somewhat recently, what advice have you given them being a junior who has gone through it all?
NC: It’s more of a resilience and mentality thing, just going out there and competing your nuts off.

SV: Confident the staff will get the point that it needs to be at for you guys to achieve your goals?
NC: I think we’re going to click sooner or later and be really good. We’ve got a talented staff.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Q & A with Tim Corbin

Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin chatted with the local media Monday afternoon about a number of topics, including why he loves coaching this year's team and Alex Feinberg's toughness.

Sports VU: After a weekend like you guys just had, do you just try to forget about it and move on?
Tim Corbin: We just go forward. That’s all you can do. I told the kids, ‘We didn’t go through this last year.’ Maybe we should have. Maybe it would’ve helped us. Now we’re going through some tougher times that I think if we can withstand them, will make us a much better ball club. It’s very easy to get down because I think the perception is we’re supposed to be a good team. When things don’t come out the way they’re supposed to, then you start to think, ‘Do I have to do more? Do I have to work harder?' Well, yeah, you always have to work, but we’ll just positively get through this, somehow some way.

SV: Mike Minor mentioned that confidence may be an issue for some of the younger pitchers. Would you agree?
TC: It’s their first time on the road. Not knowing what’s going to happen and not knowing the atmosphere, they get a little bit shell-shocked at first and they get out of their comfort zone and when they get out of their comfort zone, they’re not experienced enough to get through it. There’s probably some panic, but in the end, these are good times. In a weird way, it’s fun to coach a team like this because it isn’t as easy maybe as we thought it was last year.

SV: It obviously must be great to have Pedro back in the lineup.
TC: Over the course of time it’ll give our team a lot of confidence, but then you turn around and lose your spark plug and your fighter (in Alex Feinberg) so you take one step forward and two back.

SV: Going back to last year, it seemed like the guys had so much pressure on themselves to succeed by the end. In a way, are things easier this year because they’re kind of flying under the radar?
TC: The pressure kept mounting last year because you kept winning and every time you kept winning, the expectation level is well, these guys are good, they can’t lose…What happened to Oregon State last year is they were the returning national champions but they just barely got into the tournament and they almost become the underdog.
Now, I’m not scripting out that’s how it’s going to happen for us. You can’t just snap your fingers and say well they did it, so it’s going to happen to us, but I just think part of that is the fact is that is does take the pressure off the kids a little bit. OK, we’re not at the top anymore so let’s just fight our way through it and in the end we’ll be the team that we want to be.

SV: Has the main problem thus far been the pitching?
TC: It’s a little bit of everything, really. Sometimes we pitch, we don’t hit. Sometimes we hit, we don’t pitch. Sometimes we hit and pitch, but don’t play defense and make some bizarre running mistakes.

SV: How important are these two mid-week games for you guys, to get your confidence and focus back?
TC: They mean a lot. They mean a lot in terms of confidence and wins, they mean a lot as far as RPI, they mean a lot as far as guys getting swings back, it means a lot for pitchers to get into some sort of groove, good weather, rhythm, Pedro more swings. These are huge. Sometimes you wish had more days to practice, but we don’t any more with the new rules, so we’re going in the process just by playing games.

SV: What are your thoughts on the later starting time for the season?
TC: It was put in for the Northern schools, but I don’t think they like it, but there’s nothing we can do now. We made the bed and now we have to sleep in it. It definitely is a little different because you don’t have time to work on areas that you might want to work on. You’re pressed right into playing.

SV: Playing Mississippi State this weekend, thoughts on their coach Ron Polk, who is resigning at the end of the year due to frustrations with the NCAA?
TC: He’s just been fighting a hard battle for such a long time with the NCAA. He’s been a big proponent of battling for kids and his heart’s in the right place and I like him a lot. I just think he got to a point where he’s older and really doesn’t care what he says anymore. He’s fought it for so long that he’s just irritated and said, ‘Forget it; I’m going to say what’s on my mind.’

SV: Thoughts on Alex Feinberg’s character?
TC: He’s your grinder, he’s your Phil Garner, he’s your guy who’s just a battler and doesn’t take no for an answer. It’s a loss because there’s a confidence level that he plays with that kind of goes to our team…The kid wants to play right now, but he’s not going to play for two weeks.

SV: What happened on the play?
TC: It was a 91-mph fastball. Took it in the chin. Sprints down to first base. He’s a tough kid. He never went down on the ground and his face was all over the place. You could see all the way through to his teeth and he goes, ‘I’m not coming out of the baseball game. Find a way to stop the bleeding and I’m playing.’"

Baseball Notebook

Despite a rough weekend at Ole Miss, the Commodores (19-10, 5-6 Southeastern Conference) are not about to panic. They host Western Kentucky tonight and Austin Peay tomorrow before heading on the road to take on Mississippi State.

Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the past week. I’ll have interviews with Coach Corbin and Mike Minor up a little later.

The good

Vandy welcomed back All-American third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who had missed 23 games with a broken bone in hand. The junior had two towering homers -- both going over 400 feet – and two doubles.

Dominic de la Osa is in a groove. The senior outfielder went 10-for-23 (.435) with three doubles, a homer and four RBI on the week.

David Macias turned a solid week as well, hitting .368 with a double, homer and three RBI.

The bad

Vandy was swept by Ole Miss and went 1-4 last week, its worst stretch in almost two years, to fall into last place in the SEC East.

De la Osa and Macias were the only players to hit over .300. As a team, the Commodores hit .262 and scored 26 runs in five games.

The pitching staff didn’t fare much better as it posted a 7.93 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 17 walks in 42 innings. Meanwhile, opponents batted .326 during that stretch. The weekend rotation of Mike Minor, Caleb Cotham and Brett Jacobson combined to give up 18 runs, 15 earned, on 21 hits in 15 innings

The Vandy defense also struggled, committing 11 errors for a .939 fielding percentage.

The ugly

Although the Commodores welcomed back Alvarez, they saw second baseman Alex Feinberg go down Saturday. The senior suffered a broken jaw when a 92-mph fastball from Ole Miss ace Lance Lynn hit him below the mouth. Feinberg went back to Nashville Saturday night and had successful surgery on Sunday morning, but should be sidelined for approximately two weeks.

Video of the Day: One Shining Moment

This is the best video we will put up all year. Luther gives me chills every time. Just enjoy.

Commodore Banter (4/8)

Vanderbilt goalkeeper Brooke Shinaberry earned American Lacrosse Conference Player of the Week honors.

Coach Corbin, along with Vandy alum Buster Olney, will be speaking at a luncheon on April 15.

Andrew Skawara of lists Foster's 42-point explosion as the No. 1 individual performance of the year.

Want to hear what all the players have to say from last night's thriller that left Kansas as the NCAA champions?

In case you missed our...

Q&A's with
Keegan Bell,
Jamont Gordon, Caleb Cotham, Curt Casali, Merideth Marsh,Jonathan White, Christina Wirth, Shea Robin, Vijay Paul, Ryan Preston, Keegan Bell, Nick Cromydas.

Monday, April 7, 2008

One Shining Moment...

In a national championship game for the ages, Kansas outlasted Memphis 75-68 in overtime. A few quick thoughts:
  • I feel awful for Chris Douglas-Roberts, Derrick Rose and the rest of the Tigers, who were up 60-51 with 2:12 left. They are never going to forgive themselves for missing four of five free throws down the stretch, but I sincerely hope that's not how they are remembered.
  • Everyone is going to be talking about why Memphis did not foul in the final seconds, but as John Calipari said afterwards, his players were trying. It's not an easy thing to do in that situation and if Mario Chalmers had not hit the shot of a lifetime, the Tigers would be the ones cutting down the nets.
  • Kansas and Memphis proved tonight that they were truly the two best teams in college basketball.
  • It was a joy to watch the Jayhawks play defense. They're quick, they move their feet, they don't reach, they help and recover, they close out, they pick up well in transition, they communicate and they never stop. Kansas made Rose and CDR work for every shot (you could tell that they were flat-out exhausted by the end of the game).
  • Memphis was equally impressive defensively, but struggled in overtime because they were too dependent on Rose and CDR, while Kansas had a number of options it could go to.
  • Derrick Rose is going to make a lot of money, as is Bill Self. The only question for both of them is where.
  • Again, my condolences to the Tiger players and fans, and hearty congratulations to Jayhawk Nation for a national title well-deserved.

Video of the Day: Kevin Love is impressive

We all know Kevin Love is good, but this might be the most impressive thing I've seen him do. It reminds me of that Lebron James Powerade commercial, except its real.

He would definitely put Kevin Stallings to shame in a game of horse.