Press Conference Notes: Keegan and Corbin discuss Keegan’s rebound from hospitalization, pitching lineup and injury updates

Dominic Keegan energized Vanderbilt’s offense against Georgia State and was subsequently named SEC Co-Player of the Week.

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Dominic Keegan huddles with the defense against Wright State on Feb. 23, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

Basim Naim, Staff Writer

Junior first baseman Dominic Keegan had a fantastic week at the plate for the Commodores. He hit four doubles, three home runs, had 11 RBIs and scored eight runs in seven games. 

As the SEC’s reigning Co-Player of the Week, Keegan is quickly developing into a household name, but this collegiate success is newfound: just last year, discomfort in his right arm and back pain prompted career-threatening emergency surgery, a rib removal and blood thinners. 

He was asked how it feels to headline Vanderbilt’s program after spending last year in and out of the hospital. 

“It feels awesome,” Keegan said. “Obviously, I’ve been through a lot since my time here. My freshman year, I didn’t really get a chance to play, and [I also] got injured last year. It just felt really good coming into the fall, taking on a leadership role and owning it and running with it.” 

Keegan, who was a freshman when the Commodores won the 2019 College World Series, also reflected on how being hidden beneath the starting lineup for so long helped him mature. 

“Since coming to Vanderbilt, one big lesson I learned right away is [that] you have to wait your turn,” Keegan said. “Obviously, my freshman year, we had a pretty loaded roster. I wasn’t used to sitting on the bench. We have 40 amazing players, but only nine can play at a time.” 

Head coach Tim Corbin addressed the media following Keegan. The first question addressed to him asked what gave him the confidence to start freshman center fielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. so early in his collegiate career. 

“His ability to play defense,” Corbin said. “The one staple for our group is, if you can play really good defense, you can find your way to the field quickly, and he does—not just because of his speed, but he’s very adept with his glove. He can cover a lot of ground, [and] he’s got good instinct off the bat, which allows him to get even better jumps.” 

Never one to just stick to baseball, Corbin mentioned Enrique Bradfield Jr.’s love for the UFC as a fun passion he wants his players to pursue so they’re not overly focused on just baseball.

“Conrad Gregor, I never knew he played the oboe,” Corbin said. “Khalil Greene, when I coached him at Clemson, he was a WWF historian. I mean, everything about the WWF… [Miami Marlins outfielder] JJ Bleday, he told no one he was a concert pianist.” 

Vanderbilt finished its series against Georgia State on Sunday, Feb. 28. The team’s next game is Friday, March 5, giving the Commodores four days of much-needed rest after they played seven games in seven days to start the 2021 season. Corbin outlined how his team would utilize the break. 

“Rest, number one,” Corbin said. “And then trying to channel these pitchers into some type of structure that they’re more used to, and trying to get [junior pitcher] Kumar [Rocker] lined up again, and [sophomore pitcher] Jack [Leiter] lined up again, and [sophomore pitcher Thomas] Schultz lined up again… Playing seven games in seven days during school is fun, but you can see the strain it puts on the boys in terms of their academic responsibilities.” 

Tim Corbin was asked about his approach to incorporating veteran relief pitchers in the lineup, such as senior left-handed pitcher Hugh Fisher and junior right-handed pitcher Ethan Smith.

“We’re just using them as needed and as we feel like they’ll line up best against the hitters that we see,” Corbin said. “I wouldn’t say there is any definition with those roles. I would say more than anything if they’re a relief pitcher, then they’re basically a relief pitcher. We talked a lot about mental flexibility yesterday in terms of a pitcher and just adapting to what the team needs more than what you personally need, which has never been an issue here.” 

Senior outfielder Cooper Davis has not returned to the starting lineup since the season opener, when a foul ball hit his face and broke his nose. Corbin was asked if Davis would be able to play in the upcoming series against Illinois-Chicago.

“I’m hopeful,” Corbin said. “He had his helmet on yesterday, he was moving around well, and he’s certainly moving in the right direction.”

With the same humility that he has made a staple since the season began, Corbin described where the Commodores stand offensively and what their future could have in store. 

“I wouldn’t tell you that we have a bunch of three- and four-hole hitters because I do not believe that,” Corbin said. “But what I do believe is that we have a lot of seven-hole hitters, and in time, they’ll become much better hitters as we progress. Offensively, we’ve got such a long way to go to be a good offensive team.” 

The Commodores begin a three-game weekend series against the University of Illinois at Chicago at home at 4:30 PM CST on Friday, March 5, on SEC Network+.