2011 College World Series: 10 Reasons Vanderbilt Can Win Title

Frank BerteltContributor IIIJune 16, 2011

Junior Jack Armstrong was vying for a starting spot this spring but has settled into the Vandy bullpen.
Junior Jack Armstrong was vying for a starting spot this spring but has settled into the Vandy bullpen.

It's been reported that on NCAA tournament selection day, many teams had a similar desire as to where they were being sent—anywhere but Nashville.

The Commodores roll into Omaha for the first time in school history, but the team is not considering this a success so far, not with the stakes so high.

There are many factors that have Vandy backers excited about the prospect of bringing home the big prize in about 10 days.

1. No team is as hot right now. The ’Dores are clicking on all cylinders, and if they had their druthers, they would have rolled right into Omaha without a week's break. Vandy is 5-0 in the tournament and has outscored its opponents 46-7 in the process.

2. Top-notch rotation. Sonny Gray and Grayson Garvin combined to go 25-4 with a 2.16 ERA and a WHIP of 1.06. No. 3 starter Taylor Hill was no slouch, posting a 5-1 ledger and 2.84 ERA. Many teams in the tourney need to avoid the loser's bracket but not Vandy.

3. Crooked numbers. The sticks did their part as well, as Vandy posted an SEC-high 442 runs and outscored its competition by a whopping 268 runs in 62 games. Only one regular, outfielder Connor Harrell, is hitting below .300 entering the Series.

4. Solid bullpen. Closer Navery Moore sports a 1.21 ERA in 29.2 innings with 11 saves. Tim Corbin's ’pen also includes the likes of Kevin Ziomek, T.J. Pecoraro and Jack Armstrong, one of the livelier arms.

Armstrong, the son of former major leaguer Jack Armstrong Sr., was drafted in the third round by the Houston Astros despite pitching in only 13 games this year.

5. Battle tested. The SEC is hands down the best conference in the nation, and Vandy held its own, sporting a 22-8 league mark, tied for the best record with both Florida and South Carolina.

The Commodores led the league in both hitting (.319) and pitching (2.38) and had the second-fewest errors (62). They also were the only team in the league with an on-base percentage above .400 (.406).

6. Clutch hitting. One mark of a championship baseball team is its ability to pick up those two-out RBI hits, and the Commodores have that in spades.

7. Coaching. Tim Corbin inherited a program back in 2003 that hadn't even qualified for the SEC Tournament the previous six seasons. By year two, the Commodores made the NCAA Super Regional and have been a fixture in the NCAA tournament for the last six years.

He is a stickler for detail but commands respect from his players. The proof is there, as in nine years, the former Clemson assistant has had 61 players taken in the draft.

8. Vandy fans will really give their team a boost in Omaha. These avid supporters have long been waiting for any sort championship-caliber team. Vandy football has seen one bowl game in 29 years, and though the men's basketball team is a regular participant in the NCAA tournament, it has been in a one-and-done scenario all too frequently.

9. Winning note. Vandy had an SEC-record 12 players drafted in this month's MLB Draft. Those who feel they’ll sign would love to go out with a bang—something former Vandy All-Americans like David Price, Mike Minor and Pedro Alvarez didn’t do.

10. Honor roll. The team has four All-Americans, more than any other team in the nation. All were on Baseball America's All-America second team: pitchers Sonny Gray and Grayson Garvin, third baseman Jason Esposito and first baseman Aaron Westlake. Also, Garvin earned SEC Pitcher of the Year honors.


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