The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Three up, three down: VandyBoys go 2-1 at College Baseball Showdown

Six takeaways from the VandyBoys’ 2-1 opening weekend at the College Baseball Showdown
Jonathan+Vastine+hitting+against+Texas+on+Feb.+19+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Jonathan Vastine hitting against Texas on Feb. 19 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Hallelujah! Baseball is back.

The Vanderbilt Commodores opened their 2023 season this past weekend at the College Baseball Showdown at GlobeLife Field in Arlington, Texas. The VandyBoys won two of their three games, dropping the opener against No. 15 TCU 11-4 before defeating No. 9 Oklahoma State 11-9 and Texas 12-2. For those of you who didn’t cough up $29.99 to watch the games this weekend, here’s a quick summary of what you missed.

Three up.

Offensive explosions

As fun as it is to look at the headline and see 27 runs over three games, the pure rate stats actually weren’t great for the Commodores over the weekend. They batted just .255 total and walked only seven times. One of the concerns going into this year is whether the VandyBoys can homer enough to secure the kinds of “big innings” that define modern offenses. Timely hitting at the right time is the way around that concern. Vanderbilt had plenty of cold innings at the plate, but when they hit, they hit hard. The Commodores scored seven runs in the second inning against Oklahoma State and eight in the second against Texas. Those explosive innings are key for burying teams early and protecting the pitching staff.

Five triples

The Commodores took advantage of some well-placed hits, aggressive base-running and occasionally poor opposing defense to record five triples over the weekend by five different players, including at least one in all three games. I don’t really know what to make of that statistic in the long run, but it was definitely fun to watch. We do know, however, that Tim Corbin likes to make up for his team’s occasional lack of power-hitting by running into an offense. That kind of aggression is certainly good to see throughout the lineup.

The infield can rake

The main roster concern going into 2023 was the infield. Aside from Davis Diaz, we couldn’t really be sure of who would start and where. The thing that probably surprised me the most this weekend was seeing Tim Corbin name the same starting infield in all three games: Parker Noland at first base, Jonathan Vastine at second, Diaz at shortstop and RJ Austin at third.

Corbin was rewarded for his consistency. Vastine and Noland led the way with five hits and four runs batted in (RBI) each. Austin was solid at the plate as well, going 4-for-13 with 3 RBI. Diaz was only 2-for-9 but added a walk and was hit by a pitch three times (more on him later). Corbin is likely not done tinkering with the lineup or this infield, but nonetheless, it was certainly a step in the right direction.

Three down.

Shaky pitching nearly gives up a lead

It’s probably not a great idea to try to analyze any pitcher off the sample size of one outing. But collectively, this series was not the ringing endorsement of the VandyBoys’ pitching depth fans may have wanted to start with. The Commodores left Arlington with an ugly 6.92 team earned-run average (ERA) and nearly squandered an 11-2 lead against Oklahoma State on Saturday. Of course, the fair caveat is that pitchers typically take longer to warm into a new baseball season than hitters. That’s part of the reason we saw short starts for Vanderbilt, with nobody throwing more than five innings. Some of the numbers for players that the team will likely rely on certainly weren’t great, though. Highly touted freshman Andrew Dutkanych IV walked five hitters in his two innings of work. Sam Hliboki, Ryan Ginther and Grayson Moore allowed five, five and four runs, respectively, in their outings. With two midweek games coming up, we’ll see how Corbin manages his staff given these performances.

Stars starting cold

While we saw plenty of hitting over the weekend, it didn’t always come from the sources fans would expect. On-base and speed machine Enrique Bradfield Jr. was just 1-for-11 at the plate and surprisingly was not one of the five Commodores with a triple given the nine in his college career. Meanwhile, power-hitting catcher Jack Bulger was 0-for-8 before sitting out the Sunday game against Texas when backup Alan Espinal hit a grand slam. I expect Bulger to remain the primary catcher for now, and Bradfield’s spot is certainly secure. Anyone can have one bad weekend, so it’s definitely not time to hit the panic button on these two yet.

Diaz’s weirdly painful weekend

I haven’t done extensive research on the topic, but I’ve certainly never heard of a player committing three errors and being hit by three pitches over a three-game series before. It’s certainly frustrating if nothing else. Diaz will be starting at shortstop this year despite playing much of last season at third base. As long as his defense is up to shape by the start of SEC play this year, this weekend should just be a blip in the past to laugh about. 

The VandyBoys will be back in action for their home opener on Feb. 21 at Hawkins Field at 4:30 p.m. CST against Central Arkansas.

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About the Contributor
Frankie Sheehy, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Frankie Sheehy ('24) wrote for The Hustler Sports section and graduated from the College of Arts and Science with majors in economics and law, history and society. He was also the president of the Vanderbilt Chess Club and a superfan of the Chicago White Sox. You can reach him at [email protected].
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