NCAA Baseball: Vanderbilt Commodores Outlook for the College World Series

Joseph HealyCorrespondent IJune 18, 2011

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 29:  (EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS DIGITAL IMAGE HAS BEEN CONVERTED TO BLACK AND WHITE) General view of the 'Road to Omaha' Statue in front of the Rosenblatt Stadium following game 2 of the men's 2010 NCAA College Baseball World Series between the UCLA Bruins and the South Carolina Gamecocks on June 29, 2010 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Gamecocks defeated the Bruins 2-1 in eleven innings to win the National Championship.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Thanks to their series victory over Oregon State in last weekend's super regional, Vanderbilt will be making their first-ever appearance in the College World Series.

Not only are they in Omaha, they find themselves as one of the favorites to win it all with their incredible depth both in their lineup and on their pitching staff.

Vanderbilt's march to Omaha began when they breezed through the regional round at home in Nashville. They outscored their opponents by a 26-3 margin.

They defeated Belmont in the regional opener 10-0 and then followed that performance with a 10-2 win over Troy and a 6-1 win over Belmont again in the regional final.

Vanderbilt moved on to the super regional round, staying at home to play the Oregon State Beavers. OSU didn't provide any more challenge to the Commodores as Vanderbilt won by scores of 11-1 and 9-3.

Vanderbilt's success begins with the aces at the top of their starting rotation. First-round draft pick Sonny Gray is 12-3 with a 1.97 ERA. Co-ace Grayson Garvin is 13-1 with a 2.36 ERA. The "other guy" in their weekend starting rotation is Taylor Hill. He's 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA.

It doesn't get any easier for opposing hitters when Vanderbilt gets into the bullpen. Closer Navery Moore leads the way with 11 saves and a 1.21 ERA. T.J. Pecoraro and Kevin Ziomek have 1.59 and 1.61 ERAs, respectively.

They both have started games this year as well, so they are guys that can give coach Tim Corbin multiple innings at a time.

The Commodores have seven relievers with ERAs of 3.03 or lower, and all told, they have a 2.38 team ERA.

Their pitching staff alone would be enough to make them one of the favorites to win it all in Omaha.

Their offense is just as stout, though.

As a team, they have a .319 batting average. Jason Esposito leads the way with a .357 batting average, nine home runs and 59 RBI.

Not to be outdone, Aaron Westlake has a .353 batting average, a staggering 17 homers and 54 RBI. In the super regional-clinching win over Oregon State, Westlake belted three monster home runs.

Conrad Gregor, Riley Reynolds and Anthony Gomez keep the hit parade coming with batting averages of .350, .346, .343, respectively. That's to say nothing of Tony Kemp, Curt Casali and Mike Yastrzemski, who are all hitting .300 or higher.

You can't help but feel good for the Vanderbilt program and for head coach Tim Corbin. The Commodores have had a lot of top-flight talent in past years, but they have never been able to get over the hump and into the College World Series.

Corbin and his team won't be satisfied with just making it there, though. They are in Omaha to win and count me among those that wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they came out victorious.


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