Saturday, June 21, 2008

Around the SEC (6/21)

Want another reason to like Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo? The day after celebrating with his teammates at the championship parade, Rondo hopped on a 6 a.m. flight to Cincinnati to spend time with his fans at Camp Rondo at the Basketball Academy.

"I had to be here for this," he said. "I couldn't let the kids down." [The Courier-Journal]

Auburn hired College of Charleston coach John Pawlowski to lead its baseball program, and it looks like the Tigers got it right. [Tracking the Tigers]

LSU saw its magical run in the CWS come to an end last night against North Carolina, while Georgia plays Stanford today. [The Advocate, Dawg Sports]

Mississippi State football coach Sylvester Croom got a well-deserved raise. [Clarion-Ledger]

Former Gator slugger Matt LaPorta is a star in the making. [Gainesville Sun]

Top statistically returnees in the SEC by points, rebounds and assists. [UK Sidelines]

Not related to the SEC, but this was too good to pass up. Bruce Weber: "I think Indiana will suck." [Fanhouse]

Photo []

Friday, June 20, 2008

Q&A with Joey Manning

With a number of talented recruits heading to Nashville in the fall, it's easy to forget about the Commodores already waiting in the wings. Just a year ago fans and coaches were raving about the potential of outfielder Joey Manning.

"Joey is an Albert Pujols look-alike," said coach Tim Corbin before the season. "He's strong, can run and throw, and is a mature freshman. He's very driven to excel and is our future in the outfield."

However, the presence of seniors David Macias and Dominic de la Osa meant little playing time for Manning. He finished the season 2-for-7 with one RBI and two walks. This summer Manning is starting for the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball. Through eight games, he is hitting .276 with two homers, a double and six RBI to go along with six walks.

After playing against Mike Minor and the rest of the Team USA squad Thursday night, Manning sat down with The Sports VU to discuss a number of topics, including his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter.

Sports VU: Talk about what the atmosphere is like here in Newport.
Joey Manning: It’s just like college. We get just as many fans here as we do back at school. The pitching is pretty good, the competition is pretty good.

SV: How exciting is it to be playing every day again?
JM: At school, it was a little bit frustrating this year having so many older guys in the outfield. It’s nice to come here and play every day. I had to prove myself at first when I got here. People were thinking, “OK, this guy didn’t play a lot at school; he’s probably not that good.” You realize how much talent’s at Vandy when you come here.

SV: While you obviously want to play, I’m sure you had to learn a lot from the older guys.
JM: It’s definitely humbling. You see what you have to do from the preparation stand point every day.

SV: What do you have to do to solidify a spot in the outfield next season?
JM: Just be more consistent.

SV: Do you have a host family here?
JM: Yeah, I’m staying with my best friend from back home, Jack Murphy, he goes to Princeton. We’re staying with Chuck Paiva, who’s actually the GM of the team.

SV: What’s a day like for you here in Newport?
JM: The first week we got here, we had to wake up early and read to elementary school kids every day. Now, it’s just wake up, lift weights, play a little basketball and come to the field.

SV: How did playing for Coach Corbin this year prepare you for this summer?
JM: You have to have great energy and preparation every day. I’ve done that here and it’s paid off for me.

SV: With six walks, looks like you’ve been pretty patient so far.
JM: I don’t get to see too many fastballs and they throw around me a little bit.

SV: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a hitter?
JM: I can hit the fastball, but I just have to learn to hit the slider a little better. I hit a curve ball out the other night, but I need to work on hitting the slider.

Photo [Goldy's Blog]

Q&A with Mike Minor

It seems like just yesterday Mike Minor was a freshman, pitching in relative anonymity behind David Price. Now, he's already a junior.

The left-hander went 7-3 with a 4.28 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 103 innings as a sophomore after going 9-1 with a 3.09 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 90.1 innings as a freshman. Despite the statistical dip, Minor said there is no question he is a better pitcher.

He is playing for Team USA for the second straight summer and took some time to answer some questions from The Sports VU after the Americans' 8-3 victory over Newport about a number of topics, including the reason for his struggles, the development of his third pitch, the dedication of pitching coach Derek Johnson and expectations for next season.

Sports VU: Describe the feeling of wearing that Team USA jersey.
Mike Minor: It’s always a lot of fun to put the USA jersey and representing wherever go, but especially in Newport, such a big town, on the coast. The ballpark in itself is just different – you never see fences this high all the way around, nowhere past 360, restaurant in right field. It’s a pretty cool place.

SV: What it’s like not having Pedro (Alvarez) and Flash (Ryan Flaherty) around this summer?
MM: I had to go with the guys and get to know everybody else instead of just lingering towards Pedro and Flash and having them create friends for me. I had to do it all on my own this year except for Goldy, and he’s with the coaches most of the time.

SV: It seems like you were a freshman. And now you’re about to be a junior. Can you believe it?
MM: I was actually thinking about that the other day. Next year – that’s the big year. It seemed like just the other day I was with Pedro and Flash and they were the big dogs and now I’m at the top, ready to go hopefully in the draft next year.

SV: How excited are you for next year?
MM: I think I’ll be better, be more experienced and I feel like I won’t make as many mistakes and I’ll be more of a leader for the younger guys.

SV: Have you had a chance to evaluate what you did well this season and what you can improve?
MM: I tried to be a leader out there and set the tone on Friday nights, but a lot of times I would get mad at myself if I made a bad pitch here or there. I was too hard on myself and that’s what I need to learn from and next year, just let it go by.

SV: Statistically, you may not have had as good a season as a sophomore, but I’d imagine that you are much better pitcher now than you were there then.
MM: Definitely. Last year I was right behind Price and they were like “let’s just focus on Price, Price, Price,” and then I would get out there and they were like “who’s this guy?” They really didn’t know who I was and now this year, everybody knew I had a changeup so everybody sat on my changeup and hit my changeup. I feel like I’m a better pitcher and developing my third pitch and throwing it more so people can sit on my changeup.

SV: What’s the third pitch?
MM: Slider, but I’m actually working on a curve over the next couple of weeks too so there might be four.

SV: Talk about what it’s like to play for DJ (pitching coach Derek Johnson)?
MM: He’s so dedicated. We lost our last game in the Regional and everybody’s just looking ahead to summer ball and he’s already next year and what we need to work on. We had a meeting for two hours that night just talking about next year and the year just got over. That just shows you how dedicated he is.

SV: Looking ahead to next year, the pitching staff has a chance to be pretty good.
MM: I’m pretty excited about that because I’m a pitcher and don’t really care what the hitters do. You’ve got Sonny Gray and Navery Moore coming in and a lot of guys. Those are just the guys I know from close by. I’m pretty pumped to see what they’ve got and show them tips and have them lean on my shoulder.

SV: Is it tough to watch LSU and Georgia competing in Omaha, knowing it could be you guys?
MM: I feel like we can compete with them, but I guess this year we just couldn’t come together like we did the year before and there were just so many obstacles we would’ve had to overcome to get to Omaha.

How impressive has Kentrail Davis (Tennessee) been so far?
MM: Him and the other SEC guys, Hunter Morris (Auburn). They just light up in BP and in the games. It makes me feel pretty good because during the season they didn’t do much against me.

SV: Learn anything from the other pitchers out in the bullpen?
MM: I learned a couple new grips and new pitches. Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss) throws a crazy 12-6 knuckle-curve that I’ll never try because it looks too hard.

Around the SEC (6/20)

A few links to pass along on this lazy Friday. Once you stop staring at that photo, feel free to check them out.

The best part about signing Emmanuel Negedu? Tennessee now has the hottest fan in the SEC in Marisa Miller, who is only No. 1 on Maxim's Hot 100 List. (Sorry Ashley, but it's not even close). Negedu went to the same school as Miller's husband and is very close with both of them. You know Bruce Pearl is loving this. [Verno's Blog]

SI's Luke Winn discusses how the new 3-point line (from 19 feet, nine inches to 20 feet, nine inches) will affect the game next season. 33.4 percent of Vanderbilt's points came from 3-point range, the ninth-highest percentage in the nation, but don't expect the Commodores to as reliant next season without Shan Foster and Alex Gordon. []

Quarterback Stephen Garcia hopes to rejoin South Carolina this summer. [The State]

Billy Gillespie said he will comply with a recommendation from the National Association of Basketball Coaches that coaches stop recruiting eighth-graders. The best part about this story? The president of the NABC is none other than Tubby Smith. [Herald-Leader]

Florida guard Nick Calathes is going Greek. [Gainesville Sun]

Team USA 8 Newport 3

Had a chance to take in the game between the USA National Team and the Newport Gulls of the NECBL Thursday night, and came away very impressed.

Cardines Field in Newport, R.I., is a treat. The two dugouts are situated side-by-side along the first-base line and the two teams share a bullpen along the left-field line, while there is a 20-foot high fence all the way around and a restaurant in the right-field perch.

With 2,763 fans in attendance, the atmosphere was electric -- even better than the Cape League -- as the Gulls ran numerous promotions to keep the youngsters entertained. There were also a number of scouts seated behind home plate. I counted at least eight radar guns and San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, Atlanta and Kansas City, among others, were on hand to watch Team USA win 8-3.

Vanderbilt lefty Mike Minor did not pitch, but I had a chance to catch up with him after the game (you can read the interview here). Fellow Commodores Joey Manning and Chase Reid are off to good starts this summer, but both struggled last night.

Manning struck out twice against Missouri's Kyle Gibson, a hard-throwing right-hander from Missouri. Reid gave up three runs, two earned, on four hits with two walks and one strikeout in two innings of work.

Scouts are definitely intrigued by Gibson, who is 6'6'' and very projectable. He looked overpowering at times, striking out six in four innings of work. However, when Newport was able to sit on his fastball, Gibson paid. Gibson surrendered a leadoff homer and gave up back-to-back hard-hit doubles in the fourth. Still, Gibson has a devastating slider that, when thrown for strikes, makes him very difficult to hit. It will be interesting to see how Gibson fares the rest of the summer.

The most impressive performance of the night came from Tennessee outfielder Kentrail Davis, who I think is going to be a very special player. Davis is off to a torrid start this summer and Thursday night was no different. In the third, the freshman blasted his fourth homer to deep right field, turning on a fastball to clear the 20-foot high fence with ease. In the sixth, Davis added a long double off the wall in the right-centerfield gap after fouling off two tough two-strike pitches.

Davis led the Vols in batting average (.330), home runs (13) and RBI (44) as a freshman and has only elevated his play with Team USA. He stands at just 5’9’’, but weighs 198 pounds and is extremely strong with quick hands and a sweet left-handed stroke. Expect Davis to be a first-round pick in 2010. Until then, good luck to the college pitchers try to get him out.

Click here for my full Team USA breakdown on The College Baseball Blog.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Around the SEC (6/19)

I'm off to Rhode Island in a minute to play some golf with my dad and then catch the Team USA-Newport baseball game tonight, but here are a few links for the road.

Tennessee forward Wayne Chism walked out on his summer league game early. [Go Vols Extra]

School President Jay Gogue discusses the state of Auburn athletics. [The Birmingham News]

Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson, who A.J. Ogilvy said was the toughest player to guard, is well on his way to recovery after suffering an ankle injury late in the season. [Advocate-Messenger]

Auburn is still looking for a new baseball coach.[Track 'em Tigers]

Q&A with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. [Go Gamecocks]

LSU faces North Carolina in another do-or-die game today in the CWS. [The Advocate]

Enjoy the day, everyone.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer baseball update

Summer baseball is in full swing and here's an update on how the Commodores are faring in the early going.

Team USA

Mike Minor is off to a terrific start in his second season with Team USA. The left-hander has won both starts, giving up seven hits while striking out six and walking none in eight scoreless innings.

Cape Cod Baseball League

Hyannis (2-2) -- Russell Brewer has already picked up two saves for the Mets, while catcher Curt Casali is 1-for-7 with a walk and run scored in two starts.

Brewster (1-1-1) -- Mark Lamm pitched a 1-2-3 ninth on Tuesday to pick up his first save, while Caleb Cotham has yet to make a start as of Tuesday night.

Wareham (1-2) -- Outfielder Steve Liddle is off to a good start, batting .300 (3-for-10) with one double and a RBI as of Tuesday night.

Harwich (3-0) -- Catcher/first baseman Andrew Giobbi is 2-for-14 with two doubles and five RBI as of Tuesday night.


Newport (6-2) -- Right-hander Chase Reid has been outstanding out of the bullpen, picking up a save and giving up just one hit and no walks while striking out seven in four scoreless innings. Outfielder Joey Manning is hitting .280 with two homers, one double, six RBI and a team-leading six walks (.419 OBP) and has a very respectable OPS of .969.

Keene (7-1) -- Lefty Sean Bierman is off to a great start, giving up one earned run on four hits while striking out 15 in just nine innings. Meanwhile, infielder Aaron Westlake has struggled (1-for-14, 4 walks, 4 errors) early on.

Holyoke (3-5) -- Outfielder Alex Hilliard is hitting .242 with a homer, two doubles and a team-best 5 RBI to go along with two stolen bases.

Sanford (4-5) -- Infielder Brian Harris is hitting .211 with one RBI and two stolen bases.


Saratoga (2-3) -- Outfielder Jordan Wormsley is 1-for-7 with a double in two starts, while lefty Kellen St. Luce gave up three earned runs to go along with four walks and five strikeouts in four innings.


Winchester (9-4) -- Taylor Hill is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two starts. He has given up 12 hits in 12.2 innings to go along with two walks and 14 strikeouts.

Staunton (6-7) -- Steven Schwartz gave up one earned run on five hits while walking three and striking out five in five innings.


Danville (5-4) -- Lefty reliever Richie Goodenow is 1-0 with 6.00 ERA after giving up four runs on six hits to go along with four walks and seven strikeouts in six innings of work.

Great Lakes

Stark County Terrier (4-1) -- Shortstop Gabe Ortiz is hitting .333 (4-for-12) with one double and two RBI in four starts. He has made one error.

A few other non-Vanderbilt thoughts:

-I took in the Hyannis-Chatham game Wednesday night and came away very impressed with right-hander Drew Muren of Cal St. Northridge. Muren gave up just one hit and struck out eight while walking one in four scoreless innings of relief for Hyannis.

Muren is 6'6, 185 pounds, and throws in the low 90s consistently, topping out at 93 mph on Wednesday. As a freshman, he was 3-5 with a 4.95 ERA in 40 innings and had just 25 strikeouts, which was surprisingly low for someone with his arm. He also played outfield and hit .270 with one homer and 14 RBI in 43 games.

-The starting pitcher for Hyannis was Matt Ridings of Western Kentucky, who pitched well with the exception of a five-run second inning. He struck out nine in five innings and gave up just two hits and fanned six and also picked off a runner in the final three frames. The Franklin, Tenn., native and BGA alum went 10-3 with a 3.88 ERA for the Hilltoppers this year.

-Two pitchers from Chatham were also impressive. Left-hander Sammy Solis (San Diego) had scouts talking after giving up two unearned runs on six hits while striking out eight and walking one in five innings. Solis went 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA in 49.1 innings as a freshman. He has good downward movement on his fastball and also throws a good breaking ball and changeup.

Also, hard-throwing Brad Boxberger (USC) struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his first save. Boxberger was ranked No. 24 by Baseball America on its CCBL prospect list last summer but the sophomore went 2-4 with a 6.12 ERA in 50 innings this year for the Trojans. He certainly has the stuff to be a a high-round draft pick in 2009 so it will be interesting to see how he performs this summer.

-I will be attending Thursday night's contest between the Newport Gulls and Team USA in Rhode Island. Should be a great take, and I'll be sure to file a report after the game.

Around the SEC (6/18)

Tennessee scored a big coup yesterday, landing prized recruit Emmanuel Negedu, a four-star forward ranked No. 40 overall by

A Nigerian native, Negedu (6-foot-8, 255) prepped at Brewster Academy (NH) and originally committed to Arizona but received a release after feeling uncomfortable with the Wildcats' coaching situation. He chose the Vols over Memphis, Indiana and Georgia Tech. [Tennessean]

CBS Sportsline's Gary Parrish broke the story and added this:
It not only solidifies Tennessee as a preseason top 10 team, but it's an example of Pearl -- aided by assistant Steve Forbes -- beating rival John Calipari and Memphis on a "national" recruit as the two programs continue to compete for supremacy in the state. [CBS Sportsline]

Alabama point guard got some advice from legendary coach Larry Brown before making his decision to return for his senior season. I'm surprised Brown didn't tell him to transfer. [Advocate-Messenger]

New South Carolina coach Darrin Horn is trying to build a pipeline to rebuild the program. [Go Gamecocks]

Those LSU Tigers did it again as Blake Dean's walk-off three-double lifted them to a 6-5 victory over Rice in a CWS elimination game. [Baseball America]

Vanderbilt pitcher Mike Minor pitched four scoreless innings to pick up his second victory for Team USA. [TCBB]

Jackonsville State players are excited about their new quarterback Ryan Perrilloux. [Birmingham News]

Which SEC teams have the best odds of winning the national championship? Florida and Georgia are 6-1, while LSU is 12-1. [Mr. SEC]

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings seems to be here for the long haul. [Nashville City Paper]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Around the SEC (6/17)

In case you missed yesterday's, Around the SEC will become a daily feature here at The Sports VU as we'll provide links to the top stories from blogs and newspapers across the South.

I'm starting with some startling news that should serve as an eye-opener for all the college students reading this blog.

A Georgia baseball player who did not accompany the team to Omaha for the College World Series is facing several alcohol-related charges after an accident resulted in serious injuries to a University of North Carolina player.

The two players - sophomore pitcher Ryan Woolley of Georgia and sophomore pitcher Brandon Dail of North Carolina - are competing in the Cape Cod summer league in Massachusetts.

According to a news report at, Dail sustained major injuries when he was pinned beneath a truck driven by Woolley. Dail reportedly had jumped onto the hood of Woolley's 2000 Ford Ranger pickup truck as Woolley was moving the vehicle out of the driveway and onto the street. The two players were at the home of their host family in Brewster, Mass., the newspaper reported.

Dail was taken to Cape Cod Hospital, then flown by medical helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. His condition was serious Monday night, a hospital spokeswoman told the Cape Cod News. He sustained injuries to his legs and head.

According to newspaper accounts, Woolley and Dail had been drinking beer and watching the CWS on television at the home of their host family. Police said Woolley failed field sobriety and alcohol breathalyzer tests he took at the scene and again at the Brewster Police Station. An 18-pack of beer was found in his truck, police said.

We hear it all the time -- don't drink and drive -- and yet far too many people (young and old) continue to do it. Maybe, just maybe, after reading this story that will change. [AJC]

In other news, Georgia beat Stanford 4-3 to move within one game of the College World Series final. [AJC]

UT football coach Phillip Fulmer is not going anywhere for a while. He is on the verge of getting a big raise. He's also going to sign a seven-year extension, which means that you can expect Fulmer to be here at least eight to 10 more years. [Tennessean]

While Fulmer's contract will average more than $3 million annually, Bruce Pearl will also get a new six-year deal worth more than $2 million annually. He's now paid more than Vanderbit's Kevin Stallings. Only Florida in the SEC will pay its football and men’s basketball coaches more in combined money than UT. [Mr. SEC]

Mr. SEC wanted to see if there was a real correlation between recruiting rankings and on-field performance. While there is no exact science, here's what they found:
The top five teams in recruiting from 2003 to 2007 just happened to be the only five teams in the SEC last year to post winning conference records.

Divide the conference into fourths and the recruiting rankings become even more telling. Teams one through four in recruiting (Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee) combined to post a 24-10 record in conference play. That’s a winning percentage of .705.

The teams ranked five through eight in recruiting (Auburn, South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas) combined to finish 16-16 in conference play. That’s a .500 winning percentage.

And the teams that ranked nine through 12 in recruiting (Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt) finished 9-25 in league play. That’s a winning percentage of only .264.

The top four in recruiting won 75% of their games, the middle four in recruiting won 50% of their games and the bottom four in recruiting won just 25% of their games.

Nothing earth-shattering, but interesting nonetheless. [Mr. SEC]

The Alabama basketball team went 1-1 yesterday. Point guard Ronald Steele will return, while forward Richard Hendrix will leave early for the NBA. Looks like Steele and head coach Mark Gottfried might end up saving each other next season. [Birmingham News]

Former UK player Derrick Jasper is transferring to UNLV. [Herald-Leader]

A look inside Florida's 2008-09 athletic budget. Looks just like Vanderbilt's, doesn't it? [Orlando Sentinel]

For Vandy links, check out today's Commodore Banter.

Commodore Banter (6/17)

The news came and went without much attention, but don't underestimate the importance of Vanderbilt pitching coach Derek Johnson's decision to stay with Dores.

One of the nation's best pitching coaches, Johnson recently turned down an opportunity to take the same position at Mississippi State under new coach John Cohen, as reported by Brett Hait of The City Paper.

“He’s the best at what he does,” said coach Tim Corbin. “He’s at the top of his craft and people respect him in a large way.”

Johnson has done an incredible job developing pitchers. Two have already gone onto the majors (Jensen Lewis and Jeremy Sowers) and at least two more will be there soon (David Price and Casey Weathers). Perhaps more importantly, no pitcher has had significant injury under Johnson, who excels at strengthening and protecting their arms.

The Commodores will have arguably their deepest and most talented pitching staff next season, which is why it's even more significant that Johnson is here to stay.

“I don’t feel like there is another pitching job out there better than the one I have,” Johnson said. “Leaving for another job makes no sense. Vanderbilt has treated me very well financially. A lot of people think the grass is greener on the other side, when in fact it’s not.

“I like Nashville and like Vanderbilt. I think we can get the quality of pitcher here that I want to work with, and I think our track record proves that.”

In other news, junior shortstop Ryan Flaherty is off to Boise, Idaho, to play for the Class A Hawks of the Northwest League after signing with the Chicago Cubs. Baseball America reported that Flaherty received $900,000 signing bonus.

Vandy Pride has a great interview up with Jason Esposito, who turned down a $1.5 million contract to play for the Commodores next season. Here's a quick preview of the interview:

VP: How tempting was it to take the 1.5 million dollar signing bonus from the Royals and go pro?
JE: It was tempting, but I had to put the dollar amount aside and figure out whether I wanted to go off as a 17 year old and start working (literally) or come to school, get an education, and try and be apart of a first Vanderbilt team to go to Omaha. But my family was really supportive of the fact that I need an education and my 15 year old brother actually convinced me to come to school. Which was a real shock hearing that from him. He’s been there for everything I’ve done.

Great stuff, and welcome aboard, Jason.

In Cape Cod League action, Russell Brewer picked up his second save as the Hyannis Mets improved to 2-0. Catcher Curt Casali made his first start and caught up with The Sports VU for a Q&A afterward that you can read here. Wareham's Steve Liddle went 1-for-3 with a RBI and Harwich's Andrew Giobbi has two doubles through two games.

Also, it's worth mentioning that David Price could be promoted to Double-A Montgomery of the Southern League later in the week after making his fifth start.

He gave up one run in five innings and struck out the side in the first and third. On the season, Price (3-0, 1.27 ERA) has given up four earned runs on 23 hits to go along with 30 strikeouts and five walks in 28.1 innings.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Q & A with Curt Casali

In Cape Cod Baseball League action, the Hyannis Mets beat Falmouth 1-0 Monday night in a classic pitchers' duel to improve to 2-0. Vanderbilt reliever Russell Brewer shut down the door in the ninth to pick up his second save, and his battery mate was fellow Commodore Curt Casali.

After the game, Casali took some time to answer a number of questions from The Sports VU about a number of topics, including his early impressions of the league and Jason Esposito's decision to come to Vanderbilt, in addition to signing autographs and helping his teammates with some groundskeeping.

Sports VU: How exciting was it to make your Cape Cod Baseball League debut?
Curt Casali: It was a rush being out there again, just like my first college game. I definitely think I was more nervous for my first college game than I was for here, but there were some butterflies. By the first inning, (Andrew) Carraway (of Virginia) was throwing great and I had to do was stick up the glove.

SV: It must be a blast to play in such low-scoring, high-quality baseball games.
CC: It's a lot of fun and the wooden bats being used add another element that college baseball players just don't even realize when you're playing with metal all the time. It's definitely a pitchers' game. 4-3 our first game and 1-0 today. You go into the ninth with a 1-0 lead, you're feeling good about yourselvesf you're playing with metal, you're like, "We really need to get some extra runs to help us out here."

SV: I'm sure you're really confident in the ninth when Russell Brewer enters the game.
CC: Russ has definitely got his thing going on in the ninth inning. I know Coach Robinson loves him as a closer already and I feel fortunate enough to be in the ninth to catch him. It's a lot of fun.

SV: Talk about how gratifying it is to be playing such a prestigious league.
CC: I've been waiting for this my whole life. It's always been a life-long dream to play in the Cape League. It's close to home and hopefully a couple of my buddies will come up here eventually. So far so good. My host family is awesome. They've treated me like their own son and I couldn't be happier.

SV: What was Carraway doing well tonight?
CC: He was just painting the black. Maybe the umpire was giving him a few inches at the end, but he definitely earned everything he got.

SV: Is this your first time using wood?
CC: No, I've used it before since high school baseball players usually use wood in the summer now, but it's been a long year of using metal so I'm still trying to get back in the swing of things, although I did hit a couple hard tonight. It will come around as it will for anyone else who may be struggling in this league. I'm a firm believer in that.

SV: What is Coach Robinson like?
CC: He's intense, almost as intense as Coach Corbin, but he's a good guy. He's calling a good game behind the plate. After going to college at Vanderbilt with Coach Corbin, you get used to an intense style of play and a fast style of play, and that's exactly what he preaches. Hustling on and off the field and a quick pace of the game.

SV: Will it take you a while to establish a rapport with the pitchers?
CC: It took me a whole fall to get a hold of our pitching staff (at Vandy), but these guys are the cream of the crop and if they're up here, they're up here for a reason. They know what they're doing and I'm trusting their stuff and I'll do whatever it takes to react to it and catch it and help them succeed.

SV: From fall ball to winter workouts to a grueling four-month season and now to this, it's been a long year, but I imagine that you guys aren't complaining about this opportunity.
CC: You can't complain about it. Ask anybody in this league and they'll say it's been their lifelong dream to come up here. Yeah, it would be a nice to have a regular summer vacation like most students, but I'm not compaining whatsoever. This is so much fun.

SV: So Jason Esposito is finally coming.
CC: Thank god. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to him, tried to convince him Vanderbilt was the best place to come. He won't be disappointed. I can guarantee you that.

SV: Already excited about next year?
CC: It was fun being a freshman for a little bit, but then it took its tolls. It will be good to be one of the older guys and establish a leadership roll.

SV: How difficult will it be to replace Shea Robin?
CC: I have some big shoes to fill because I've never seen anybody block as well as Shea has, handle the pitching staff as well as he has and you can ask Coach Corbin about that. I'm a little nervous to take on the responsibility of taking care of the staff, but at the same time I'm really excited.

SV: How will playing in this league help prepare for next season?
CC: Any time you're using a wooden bat, it really strengthens your wrists and your hands and your swing as a whole. You can cheat sometimes with a metal bat and get away with some dinky hits. But if you get jammed here, you break a bat and it hurts too. Playing with the best players across the country, how can you not get better?

Gators are SEC's greatest

With the league celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, The Birmingham News created a formula to find the Southeastern Conference's all-time Greatest Athletic Program (GAP) and the Florida Gators are your winner. Read here to see how The News came up with the rankings.

1. Florida................414.50
2. Georgia................382.36
3. LSU....................321.34
4. Tennessee..............299.28
5. Kentucky...............194.79
6. Auburn.................190.13
7. Alabama................180.98
8. Arkansas...............166.65
9. South Carolina.........106.29
10. Vanderbilt............71.51
11. Ole Miss..............57.78
12. Miss. State...........46.85

What are your thoughts on the list? Anything jump out at you? How will this list look after 100 years?

I think it looks pretty good. Florida and Georgia deserve to be at the top and I don't see them slowing down any time soon. It's interesting to see how big of a gap there is between Tennessee and Kentucky and it shows how much the top four schools have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Kentucky is helped tremendously from basketball and Arkansas and South Carolina have some work to do as late arrivals to the SEC.

I'm not surprised that the Mississippi schools find themselves at the bottom, although I didn't expect both Alabama schools to be so mediocre. The fact that Alabama and Auburn are sixth and seventh respectively shows just how talented this league truly is.

As for Vanderbilt, 10th is respectable. I'd like to think that the Commodores will rise in the rankings by the 100th anniversary, but who will they pass? The only way Vanderbilt will be able to make up ground is by a) winning national championships (the best chance will be in baseball and non-revenue sports) and b) adding programs such as softball and volleyball.

Also, here are how the schools rank in the four major sports:

1. Alabama................20.71
2. Tennessee..............12.84
3. LSU....................12.22
T-4. Florida...............7.08
T-4. Georgia...............7.08
6. Ole Miss................4.83
7. Auburn..................4.03
8. Vanderbilt..............1.60
9. Arkansas................0.62
10. Kentucky ..............0.57
11. South Carolina.........0.11
12. Mississippi St........-0.69


1. Kentucky...............41.97
2. LSU.....................7.96
3. Florida.................6.96
4. Alabama.................5.41
5. Tennessee...............5.11
6. Arkansas................3.28
7. Vanderbilt..............3.12
8. Mississippi St..........2.97
9. Ole Miss............... 2.07
10. South Carolina.........1.13
11. Georgia................0.75
12. Auburn.................0.22

1. Tennessee..............49.97
2. Georgia................13.17
3. LSU.....................8.27
4. Auburn..................6.70
5. Ole Miss................3.37
6. Vanderbilt..............3.34
7. Florida.................3.13
8. Alabama.................2.74
9. Kentucky................2.02
10. Arkansas...............1.73
11. South Carolina.........1.32
12. Mississippi St.........1.20

1. LSU....................32.04
2. Mississippi St..........9.73
3. Florida.................9.34
4. Georgia.................9.04
5. Alabama.................8.52
6. Auburn..................6.72
7. Ole Miss................5.88
8. Tennessee...............5.79
9. S. Carolina.............4.16
10. Vanderbilt.............3.26
11. Kentucky...............2.78
12. Arkansas...............2.74

Feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Around the SEC (6/16)

We're starting a new feature here at The Sports VU. Each morning we'll provide links to the top stories from blogs and newspapers across the South so let's get right to it.

The College World Series is in full swing and the SEC is well-represented. LSU is on the brink of elimination after falling to UNC 8-4. It was just the Tigers' second loss in 27 games. [Baseball America]

Georgia, meanwhile, upset top-ranked Miami over the weekend and says there will be no letdown when it plays Stanford tonight in a winner's bracket contest. [AJC]

Nobody knows who wrote it, but there is a hilarious (and well-researched) piece floating around the Internet called The SEC as the Middle East.

A couple of notables:

TENNESSEE: Iraq. Got a bunch of history but the country as a whole is going in the tank and they will kill themselves off before it is all over.

VANDERBILT: Israel. Just leave them alone for God’s sake. What did they ever do to you?

Definitely check it out. [Junkyard Blawg]

Alabama forward Richard Hendrix must decide by today whether to stay in the NBA Draft or return for his senior season. The Tide have a chance to win the SEC West if he returns, but it looks like Hendrix might roll the dice and hope that he lands late in the first round. [Huntsville Times]

ESPN's Chad Ford has a great breakdown of who's in/out and who's still on the fence. He said it's probable that Hendrix and Miss. State's Jamont Gordon stay in the draft. []

Former Mississippi State baseball coach Ron Polk is bitter, spiteful, juvenile, ridiculous and unbelievable. [Sun Herald]

Alabama has the fifth-wimpiest mascot in the nation. Guess who's No. 1? And no, it's not Big C if that's what you were thinking. [College OTR]

Kevin Stallings makes more money than Bruce Pearl. Stallings is the third-highest paid coach in the SEC behind two guys named Billy. [Razor Bloggers]

Where are they now? Former Wildcat player and Vanderbilt fan-favorite Patrick Sparks is out of basketball and getting DUIs. [Herald-Leader]

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Snedeker finishes in tie for ninth at U.S. Open

After sinking another putt for the ages and letting out an emphatic double-fist pump, Tiger Woods will face off against Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole playoff tomorrow. It never gets old, does it?

In other news, Vanderbilt grad and media darling Brandt Snedeker posted another top-10 finish in a major, tying for ninth thanks to rounds of 68 and 71 over the weekend.

Remember it wasn't too long ago that Snedeker broke down at Augusta after coming up short at the Masters. The 27-year-old, who's infectious smile and carefree demeanor have made him a fan-favorite on the PGA Tour, admitted this week that it took him a while to recover from the third-place finish. He placed 53rd, 55th and missed two cuts in the ensuing weeks.

"I was in a good frame of mind, I just didn't realize how tired I was, how much the week had taken out of me," Snedeker told the LA Times. "Trevor (Immelman) and I have talked about it; he had been through it before. Last week in Memphis was the first time I got my mind right."

Snedeker started off slow at Torrey Pines, shooting 76-73 to barely make the cut, but came back with a 3-under-68 on Saturday. Here's what columnist Chris Baldwin had to say about the round:

The result is one of the most wildly entertaining rounds you'll see in major golf - one eagle, four birdies, three bogeys and too many smiles to calculate. For both Snedeker and anyone who watches.

"Now that boy loves himself some golf!" a fan yells from along the 18th fairway. Snedeker just tips his cap, not the least bit offended that his 27-year-old multi-millionaire self is still being branded a kid.

That's some great stuff.

At Torrey Pines, Snedeker shows the U.S. Open joy that Mickelson's lost []
Snedeker has plenty to smile about at U.S. Open [LA Times]