Two years after releasing “The Marshall Mathers LP,” rapper Eminem came back with a vengeance with a single entitled “Without Me.”
It’s unclear if that song is on Vanderbilt Baseball’s pregame playlist, but perhaps it should be, because the VandyBoys are back, and you should tell a friend.
After losing their sixth game in a row in the series opener against the Georgia Bulldogs, the young Commodores successfully regrouped and won two straight to claim the series. They used a three-run inning and some stellar relief pitching from Chandler Day to claim a 5-3 win on Friday before putting together a decisive 8-3 victory on Saturday.
Enough consecutive losses can weigh on players’ minds, especially with younger players. Head Coach Tim Corbin said the emotion was on display this weekend as Vanderbilt tried to get back on track.
“I thought they handled it well,” Corbin said. “I think the emotion stemmed from I think Thursday night was a tough loss. They felt like they had something in their hand and it got taken out. That can happen, but the only way you take care of that is by responding well the next day. They did, they played pretty well yesterday and to come out with one round apiece, win the last round.”
“They’re kids, they feel the effects of not having success on the scoreboard over the course of two weeks. Going back to Lipscomb, the Florida series, and the tough game in Murfreesboro on Tuesday night, and then a tough game on Thursday. So yeah, I’m sure they were emotional because they care. It’s good for them to walk out of here with a series win.”
The series win could not come at a more opportune time for Vanderbilt. The Commodores have lost three consecutive mid-week games, including last Tuesday’s controversial seven-inning loss to Middle Tennessee State. In the middle of all of those losses, they traveled to Florida to take on the top-ranked Gators and were swept handily. Their closest loss in that series was by four runs, with the two other losses coming by eight and six runs.
Follow that up with a performance on Thursday in which the team blew a 2-0 lead and stranded two runners in scoring position with one out, and it seemed Vanderbilt’s confidence was shot. Some players lingered around the dugout by themselves on Thursday for long after Corbin made his postgame remarks and met with the media.
The Commodores had two choices: sink or swim. And they swam like sharks.
“It’s a big confidence-builder for all of us,” Day said after Saturday’s game. “We had a six-game losing streak and had the opportunity to go out there and do my job and I was fortunate enough to get us through the rest of the game and save the bullpen for tomorrow and get us back into the win column. Definitely a confidence-booster for all of us.”
They started with a bang on Saturday and finished it off with a statement victory on Sunday. Their hit parade in the fifth inning gave them the lead, but it was a home run by catcher Stephen Scott that put an exclamation point on the win.
“It’s huge,” Scott said after Sunday’s clincher. “We had a lot of emotion coming into this game, and so it really just propelled us forward. I think we’re looking to keep on that track.”
The Commodores have a number of reasons to believe in themselves. They can steal bases like few teams can with plenty of speedsters on the roster. They also have a number of players that can step into many different roles. Sophomore Harrison Ray and freshman Austin Martin played multiple positions over this series. Veteran Julian Infante did not even play in the last two games of the series.
With that much depth and potential lineup combinations, some younger players will get some playing time and continue to grow. If they’re feeling it again, the rest of the SEC should watch out, because a confident Vanderbilt squad is a scary Vanderbilt squad.
“They’re all good players, and I think they want an opportunity to play,” Corbin said. “You can’t play them all, but I just think a lot of teams have depth in this conference. We’re fortunate that we’ve got some young kids that are able to compete this early, because that’s difficult to do. Some of them probably shouldn’t be on the field if we had normal depth in the senior and junior class, but we gave them the opportunity to play and they’re taking advantage of it.”
“Hopefully they’re better at the end of the year than they are right now. I think any time they’ve stepped in, whether it’s Cooper Davis or Harrison Ray, and gotten the chance to play, they’ve responded pretty well.”
The first step in keeping the momentum going comes on Tuesday when they take on Western Kentucky.