Previewing Vanderbilt Baseball’s 2022 Schedule: An Onslaught to Omaha

With a schedule chock-full of ranked opponents and tough road games, The Hustler looks at the path the VandyBoys will have to conquer to return to the College World Series.

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Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt utility man Javi Vaz photographed during Feb. 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Bowman Talbot, Staff Writer

For Commodore fans, it’s the most wonderful time of the year: Vanderbilt baseball season. After reaching the College World Series but falling short in the National Championship, expectations are high for Tim Corbin’s squad this year. The VandyBoys are ranked third in the country to start the season and have multiple players, including sophomore outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. and junior relief pitcher Nick Maldonado, named to preseason award watch lists

It appears as though 2022 will be another great season for the VandyBoys on West End, but let’s dive into the weeds of the Commodores’ schedule before their season opener on Feb. 18 against Oklahoma State.  

Notable Nonconference Games 

The VandyBoys’ opening series against the No. 7 Oklahoma State Cowboys won’t be a walk in the park. The Cowboys finished last year’s regular season well above .500 and made it to the regional round of the NCAA Tournament before being knocked out by UC Santa Barbara. Vanderbilt will have to take care of business at home against a well-coached and disciplined Cowboys roster. Last year’s series saw Vanderbilt take two of the three games, including an 18-4 victory in the second game. The Cowboys will be looking to return the favor this year, as they travel to Nashville as underdogs. 

At the beginning of March, the VandyBoys will visit the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors for a four-game series in Honolulu. It will be interesting to see how the Commodores handle the distance and the climate of their first away series of the season. This will be the second of three trips for a Men’s athletics team to the Aloha State. Men’s basketball traveled to Oahu and won the 2021 Diamond Head Classic in December 2021 and Vanderbilt football will visit Aloha Stadium in August 2022 to kick off their season. 

The annual crosstown matchups against Belmont on March 22 and Lipscomb on March 29, respectively, will take place at First Horizon Park, the home of the MLB Triple-A affiliate Nashville Sounds. These two games will provide a bigger crowd for Vanderbilt’s  supporters and should be a chance to see a number of different pitchers as Corbin continues honing in on his rotation.

Perhaps the most intriguing out-of-conference game for the VandyBoys this year is the 10th Battle of the Barrel against Louisville. The Cardinals and Commodores have developed a fierce rivalry in the last decade, with UofL upsetting Vanderbilt with a score of 7-2 last season in Louisville. Corbin’s squad will no doubt be out for revenge in a series that they currently trail six games to five. 

Conference Play

As is expected in the SEC, Vanderbilt has a grueling conference schedule this year. Six of Vanderbilt’s 10 in-conference opponents are ranked in the preseason Top 25, with Arkansas, LSU and Florida ranked in the top 10. 

The VandyBoys open SEC play at home against Missouri. The Tigers struggled mightily last year, but managed to steal a series win from the eventual National Champion Mississippi State Bulldogs late in the season. Vanderbilt should take care of business at the Hawk in this one.

A showdown with No. 19 Tennessee at home early in April will be a benchmark game for the Commodores’ season. The Volunteers absolutely exploded last season, notching 50 wins and their first trip to Omaha since 2005. Many believe the 2021 season will be hard to repeat, but the Volunteers are dangerous and Vanderbilt shouldn’t underestimate them. The first and second games of this series will be broadcast on ESPN2 and SEC Network respectively—two of Vanderbilt’s 11 nationally broadcasted games in 2022.  

No. 9 Florida comes to Nashville in mid-April, for another exciting SEC East matchup. The Gators were upset in their own regional last season but enter this year with a ton of talent, including a preseason First Team All-American on the mound, Hunter Barco. This series is going to be electric, especially considering the intense games between these teams the last couple of years. 

The month of May, however, will be no time for the summer VandyBoys fan or sunshine Commodore. The VandyBoys face No. 16 Georgia and No. 2 Arkansas on the road before hosting No. 8 LSU in the season finale. 

Georgia came into Hawkins Field and shocked the baseball world by upsetting Vanderbilt, outscoring the Commodores 25-8 over three games last season. The Bulldogs were underestimated last year, and the VandyBoys would be wise to not repeat that mistake.  

Arkansas is the best team Vanderbilt will face this season without much doubt. The Razorbacks made a name for themselves by bushwhacking ranked opponent after ranked opponent in 2021, all the way to an SEC Championship and a Super Regional appearance. Corbin and company will have to pull out all the stops if they want to leave Fayetteville with a series win. 

LSU travels to Nashville to conclude the regular season with pie-in-the-sky expectations. A Cinderella run towards Omaha was cut down in the Super Regionals in 2021, but the Tigers field a dynamic, young roster with future major league talent across the diamond. If the VandyBoys can survive the Bulldogs and the Razorbacks, they’ll have to finish the season strong with a series win to send the hometown fans home happy. 

Key Takeaways 

Vanderbilt is going to be challenged often this season in order to return to their third consecutive College World Series. The VandyBoys play seven preseason ranked opponents, including six in the SEC. The nonconference slate should not pose much difficulty, with the exceptions of Oklahoma State and Louisville.

Once again, the SEC proves it’s the best conference in college baseball. Over half the conference has a solid chance of winning the league championship in Hoover this year. Vanderbilt will find success, but they will have to prepare themselves for a slog—week in and week out. The Commodores are once again in the conversation for a trip to Omaha, but they will need to play with poise and maintain their composure, especially during their rigorous SEC schedule. 

Vanderbilt begins the baseball season on Feb. 18 against Oklahoma State at Hawkins Field.