May 22, 2013
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
If you want to know why it's unwise to bet against Vanderbilt in this year's SEC tournament, the easy answer would be that the squad is the top-ranked team in the entire country, so theoretically they should be favored in any game they play.
That's the easy answer. But we all want more details than that, right?
For starters, Vanderbilt was historically good against SEC competition this year. As if the team's 48-7 record on the season wasn't impressive enough, the Commodores went 26-3 in the conference, with the 26 wins setting a new conference record.
Plus, the team comes into this tournament having won 15 of their last 16 games. Positive momentum heading into the postseason is always a plus.
Now, you could point out that Vanderbilt didn't play powerhouse LSU during the season, but winning 26 games in a stacked conference like the SEC is still plenty impressive.
Then, there is this team's balance. As a unit, they hit a ridiculous .319 on the season, led by studs like Tony Kemp (.408, 58 runs, 30 RBI, 27 stolen bases) and Connor Harrell (.319 with 52 runs scored, 11 home runs, 61 RBI and six stolen bases).
In all, all eight Vanderbilt regulars hit at least .297, while six players had 30 RBI or more.
And then there's the pitching. The starting staff was headlined by the two-headed monster of Kevin Ziomek (10-2, 1.99 ERA, 102 strikeouts) and Tyler Beede (13-0, 2.28 ERA, 89 strikeouts), while Brian Miller was excellent in relief (5-1, 1.60 ERA, 14 saves, 36 strikeouts).
With a team ERA of 2.70 on the year, this is a unit that can easily lead Vanderbilt on a long postseason run.
Oh, and don't expect the Commodores to beat themselves—with a team fielding percentage of .976, Vanderbilt is generally a fundamentally sound team.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Vanderbilt is one of the top teams in the nation this year, though how good the Commodores have been thus far is a slight surprise. Still, manager Tim Corbin is a whiz and is establishing Vanderbilt as a true SEC powerhouse.
In that regard, Corbin is becoming to SEC baseball what Nick Saban is to football and John Calipari to basketball. Because of his recruiting skill (the last two freshman classes were ranked the best in the nation) and player development (eight first-round draft picks on his watch), Corbin is expected to produce at the very top level.
So to review: Vanderbilt dominated the SEC, comes into the tournament hot, is a balanced and talented squad with two elite pitchers—a table-setter in Kemp and a slugger in Harrell—and is led by Corbin.
That's a recipe for an SEC tournament title, folks, and it may just be the recipe for a national championship as well.
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