Vanderbilt’s 2014 national championship baseball team is not unlike a number of those teams preceding them.
Rarely do you find a college baseball team that doesn’t encounter adversity during a long season. The last team standing must find ways to overcome that adversity.
During the regular season there were peaks and valleys. Coach Tim Corbin had a young team and youth is unpredictable.
He could sense they were close to becoming a team that could create ways to win, but it wasn’t until they left the SEC Tournament and got into postseason play that the Commodores really started to jell.
That is also when they were hit the hardest with unforeseen obstacles.
For much of the season junior right-hander Tyler Beede was the team’s ace pitcher. For whatever reason, Beede lost it down the stretch. He couldn’t locate his pitches. Most of it was a loss of confidence. Unfortunately, confidence doesn’t have an on-off switch.
So Corbin moved Carson Fulmer into Beede’s role. Fulmer became the go-to starter for the Commodores, even though he was a sophomore.
It turned out to be a move that arguably was the reason Vanderbilt was able to reach the championship best-of-three series against Virginia.
Then Corbin was hit with the sudden loss of third baseman Xavier Turner, a solid defensive player who hit .284 during the season.
After defeating Louisville and Cal-Irvine in regional play, the NCAA suspended Turner for an undisclosed rules violation and he was off the team.
Corbin turned to Tyler Campbell, another sophomore who had seen limited playing time during the regular season. Again, it was Corbin pushing the right button.
Campbell’s first start was against Texas in a 4-0 win. The sophomore from Portland, Ore., went 2-for-3 with no errors. He got only one hit the next game, but Vanderbilt advanced to the College World Series with a 4-3 win.
Campbell blistered Virginia in the series opener. He was 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, including two doubles. He also scored a run. Campbell failed to get a hit in two at-bats in the second game. In the deciding Game 2, Campbell was 0-for-4, but he played errorless defense in his five games.
In the championship game, Corbin again won the pitching matchups. He went with Fulmer and Columbia’s Haden Stone. They combined to hold Virginia to two runs.
Corbin turned it over to closer Adam Ravenelle, who came on in the eighth inning with bases loaded. He kept Virginia from scoring, pitched two shutout innings with for his third postseason save.
It was one of the most entertaining three-game series you could hope to see. The Commodores were outhit, 33-18, in the series, but Virginia left 28 runners on base while Vanderbilt stranded 16.
So what does Vanderbilt do for an encore?
In the final game they played four freshmen, five sophomores and three juniors. The starting lineup was made up of three freshmen, four sophomores and two juniors. Starters John Norwood and Vince Conde were drafted in the June amateur draft and expected to sign.
They will move MVP Dansby Swanson from second to short. Fulmer and Stone will be penciled in as two weekend starters.
Junior pitchers Jared Miller and Brian Miller were also drafted. Jared was taken in the 11th round by Arizona and Brian went in the 15th round to Tampa Bay.
The future looks bright for Vanderbilt, but then it’s going to be hard to top what they did this season.
Contact Wilson Post Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.