Vanderbilt's 2016 baseball schedule has lots of home games

The best way for Vanderbilt’s baseball team to get where it wants to go is to stay at home as often as possible.

The program’s 2016 schedule, released Tuesday, includes 36 home games among 56 total. The first nine, beginning with a three-game series against San Diego (Feb. 19-21), and 18 of the first 21 will be at Hawkins Field. That includes the start of Southeastern Conference play, March 18-20, when Mississippi State comes to town.

The only non-conference series on the road is a three-game set at Stanford, March 4-6.

In the last eight seasons, the Commodores have won 76.7 percent of their home games. The three times they made it to the College World Series (2011, 2014 and 2015) they were a combined 91-27 (.771) at home.

A year-by-year look at Vanderbilt baseball’s home record for the past eight seasons:

2015: 28-8
2014: 31-10
2013: 34-7
2012: 22-12
2011: 32-4
2010: 29-6
2009: 22-11
2008: 22-9
Total: 220-67

Other notable aspects of the schedule include:

• Vanderbilt and Belmont will play a non-conference game at First Tennessee Park, the home of the Nashville Sounds, which opened earlier this year. That game will be March 29.

• Xavier and Radford, who came to town for NCAA regionals in 2014 and 2015, respectively, will play multiple games at Hawkins Field. The Commodores will host Radford for two (March 8 and 9) followed by a visit from Xavier for three (March 11-13).

• The Commodores will play a home-and-home with Middle Tennessee State. Vanderbilt will go to Murfreesboro on March 22 and host the return contest April 12.

• The annual late-season showdown with Louisville will be May 10 at Hawkins Field.

Oct 6, 2015 2:26 PM

Highlight reel: Vanderbilt 17, MTSU 13

The end of Vanderbilt’s 17-13 victory at Middle Tennessee State on Saturday was dramatically different from the rest of the contest.

For more than three quarters the Commodores struggled to score because – among other things – they turned the ball over. Then they turned it around with two touchdowns in the final 6:14 and delivered coach Derek Mason his first win in a road game.

A further look at some of the notable performers and moments from the game:

Ralph Webb, running back

When Vanderbilt needed key yards Webb came through in a big way. There were times where it seemed like he was the entire Vanderbilt offense himself.

He finished 25 carries for 155 yards, none bigger than his 39-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, which clinched the game for Vanderbilt.

Honorable Mention
• Trent Sherfield, WR: He had a relatively quiet evening until Vanderbilt needed a big play. He had a couple of big catches and went 34 yards on an end-aorund. He finished with six catches and 97 yards of total offense.

Ed Batties, wide receiver

When teammate Richie James went down with an injury, Batties stepped up and started making plays for MTSU. In the fourth quarter with MTSU driving, Batties leaped in the air between two Vanderbilt defenders and hauled in a Brent Stockstill pass for the first touchdown of the game.

He ended the night with 10 receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown.

Honorable Mention
• Richie James, WR: James was having yet another solid game before he was hurt in the third quarter. He had eight receptions for 95 yards, five of which went for first downs.
• Kevin Byard, S: He had four tackles, a pass breakup, and an interception for 25 yards. The interception was the 17th of his career, tying him with James Griffin for the school’s all-time record.

Webb 39-yard touchdown run

On a third and one the Commodores once again went to their workhorse. Webb took the handoff and broke free from a couple of MTSU defenders for a 39-yard score to give Vanderbilt its first lead of the game.

The touchdown run capped off Webb’s first 100-yard game of the season and third of his career.


"It was disappointing. We had a chance to put it away and just weren't able to do it. I'm really proud of our team and how they fought and competed. We'll struggle until we can run the ball. Give Vanderbilt credit, we missed a couple tackles. We've had two tough, gut-wrenching games back-to-back, but we still have a chance to reach our goals. This one hurts equally as much as last week." – MTSU coach Rick Stockstill on the disappointing loss

"This was an ugly football game with the turnovers and miscues. We had an inability to convert offensively on third down and defensively to get off the field. They gave us a great ball game, but at the end of the day, our football team grew up tonight. It was the first road win since I have been here and that's huge for this young football team." – Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason on pulling off a tough road win

"The quarterback made a few plays with his feet keeping the play alive. They also got a couple lucky bounces, but we busted a few coverages and lost some leverage; I definitely put the game on us.” – Byard on Vanderbilt’s fourth quarter comeback


For what was a defensive battle for most of the game, it came down to plays in the fourth quarter, when both teams produced their best offense.

Despite two turnovers earlier in the contest, Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary used his legs to get the Commodores into the end zone. His touchdown run brought Vanderbilt within three points and started to sway the momentum in his team’s favor. 

For the second straight week MTSU suffered a heartbreaking loss in the final minutes. The defense held Vanderbilt to 177 yards passing and forced three turnovers but gave up big plays late.

The Commodores needed this victory. The Blue Raiders need to figure out how to finish contests such as this.

(Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Oct 5, 2015 7:37 AM

Stallings adds familiar face to Vanderbilt basketball staff

Darshawn McClellan will start his career as a college basketball coach the same place he began as a player.

That’s not to say he hasn’t gotten around a bit.

The former Vanderbilt player has joined Kevin Stallings’ program as Player Development Assistant, the school announced Thursday.

“I am extremely excited to be back with the Vanderbilt Men's Basketball Program,” McClellan said in a release from the school.  “I was fortunate enough to be a student athlete here from 2007-11, and did not imagine that I would be returning here to begin a coaching career as the Player Development Assistant.

“I am beyond grateful for all that Coach Stallings has done for me, and I look forward to continuing the growth of our program in any way that I can.”

He played 88 games for the Commodores (13 starts) and averaged 2.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

Since he left Vanderbilt in 2011 with a degree in Organizational Development, McClellan played an addition year of college basketball as a grad student at Louisiana-Lafayette. He then played two years of professional basketball in Iceland, Japan and Luxemborg.

He spent last season as a high school assistant coach in California – at the same school he played high school basketball.

“We’re excited to add Darshawn to our staff,” Stallings said. “He is a quality individual who has a great relationship with our current staff and can provide great insight and guidance to our players as they progress in their careers, both on and off the floor, here at Vanderbilt.”

Oct 1, 2015 10:34 PM

Blue Jays want Price primed for playoffs, won't pitch him until then

The Toronto Blue Jays want David Price on the mound when the playoffs start.

So they ended his regular season a little bit early.

The former Vanderbilt All-American was scheduled to start Thursday against the Baltimore Orioles but the Blue Jays, who already have clinched the American League East title, decided to give him an extended rest prior to the postseason.

The regular season ends Sunday.


Blue Jays manager John Gibbons referenced the "well over 200 innings" that Price has pitched this year when explaining the decision and the desire to have the AL Cy Young Award candidate fresh for a run into late October. Price will throw bullpen sessions to remain sharp until the start of the ALDS next Thursday.

Price has plenty of postseason experience – not much of it good.

He’s been a part of five playoff teams in seven MLB seasons, including four in the last five, but is 1-5 with a 4.50 ERA and 40 hits allowed in 40 innings pitched. His lone win came as a relief pitcher in 2008 – his rookie season – when he helped Tampa Bay advance to the World Series.

His five career playoff starts have all been losses.

Maybe a little extra time will help him be better this year. Or it will give him more time to think about his previous struggles.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oct 1, 2015 2:18 PM

Time (of possession) on Vanderbilt's side this season

Vanderbilt’s offense is selfish.

In terms of football, that’s a good thing.

The Commodores rank among the top 20 in the FBS (they’re 18th, to be exact) in time of possession and have had the ball more than their opponents in each of their first four games.

The last time the Commodores had the edge in four consecutive games was the final four contests of 2013. Then, they won all four, including the BBVA Compass Bowl, and finished the season 9-4.

Victories have not come nearly as often with this season’s hoggish performances but such possession proficiency does have its benefits.

"You can tell in the third and fourth quarter that defenders are starting to get tired,” tight end Steven Scheu said. “When you see that, you kind of know that you have them where you want them, and we are definitely improving in that aspect."

Vanderbilt has had the edge in possession time in 12 of this season’s 16 quarters. In every contest there has been one in which it has the ball for more than 10 minutes. Three times that quarter was the first and the other (Western Kentucky) it was the second.

A year ago they won time of possession just four times – period – in 12 games.

A quarter-by-quarter look at Vanderbilt’s time of possession in each of its first four games:




Austin Peay

Ole Miss



























It’s not hard to figure why the Commodores have held the ball so much longer than last season.

Under first-year coordinator Andy Ludwig, they have averaged 22 first downs and 8.3 third-down conversions per contest. A year ago, those numbers were 16.1 and 3.8, respectively. They already have 33 third-down conversions and at their current pace they will surpass their 2014 total (46) before the end of their sixth game.

“There are no moral victories for us,” coach Derek Mason said. “This team wants to win ball games, and we're going to put ourselves in position to win ball games.”

Having the ball is a good place to start.

Oct 1, 2015 6:47 AM

Vanderbilt's Sherfield one of 13 added to Biletnikoff watch list

Trent Sherfield has caught enough passes – particularly the last two weeks -- to catch the attention of those who administer one of college football’s top individual honors.

The Vanderbilt sophomore was one of 13 players added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list Tuesday. The original watch list included 50 players.

Middle Tennessee State’s Ed’Marques Batties also was among the additions.

Sherfield and Batties will have their own personal battle Saturday when the Commodores play the Blue Raiders at Murfreesboro (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network) in MTSU’s homecoming contest.

Sherfield leads the Southeastern Conference in receptions (28) and is second in receiving yards (402). He is one of 17 FBS players with more than 400 receiving yards and is 12th in total receptions.

He has had 23 catches for 295 yards in the last two games.

“You just have to keep working and just try to maintain that top position,” Sherfield said last week. “I’m not really too worried about the stats. I’m just coming out here and trying to play and dominate every chance I get.”

The last Vanderbilt receiver to make the list was Jordan Matthews in 2013. Matthews ended up a semifinalist.

Batties is third in Conference USA with 30 catches and is second with 446 receiving yards. His seven receiving touchdowns are second in the FBS.

“Ed'Marques Batties … is unbelievable,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. “A talented receiver, game-breaker, explosive who can make some plays.”

The Biletnikoff Award honors the country’s top pass catcher (wide receiver, tight end or running back). The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation administers the award, which will be presented Dec. 10 during ESPN's The Home Depot College Awards.

(Photo: Joe Howell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Sep 29, 2015 10:17 PM

Encounter with idol tops Ezeli's offseason celebration

No disrespect to the Vanderbilt faithful, but Festus Ezeli’s recent trip to Nashville to display the NBA championship trophy his team, the Golden State Warriors, won last season likely was not the highlight of his offseason.

It was a close second.

Chances are his fondest memory is of an encounter with his basketball idol, Hakeem Olajuwan, during NBA Africa Game festivities last month in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"Hakeem has the same story I did, coming from Nigeria, not having a basketball background," Ezeli said during Warriors media day Monday, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "After meeting him and talking to him, I have a lot of respect for all the work he put in. He was talking to me about working hard and staying humble.”

Ezeli represented Nigeria, his native country, in that game, the first of its kind. His family later emigrated to the United States and Vanderbilt coaches discovered him playing for an AAU team out of California.

After five years with the Commodores, the Warriors drafted him in the first round (30th overall) in 2012.

He did talk about his trip to Nashville, which included an appearance at halftime of the football team’s SEC opener against Georgia.

"Even the Georgia fans stood up and gave me a standing ovation," Ezeli, said. "It made me feel like it's bigger than just myself. I was part of something big."

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sep 29, 2015 10:03 PM

MTSU ready to welcome Vanderbilt, hopes Blue Raiders fans show, too

Middle Tennessee does not have much time to dwell on its tough, last-minute loss at Illinois.

Up next is Vanderbilt in a matchup that has been a long time coming. The Commodores will make their first trip to Murfreesboro since 1920.

“There have been a lot of rumors that this game is going to be sold out and we're finally going to have a real electric crowd here in Murfreesboro and that will be great,” Blue Raiders safety Kevin Byard said. “… It's going to be a great experience. We have played a lot of big schools this year, but we went into every single game expecting to win those games.

“We don't go into games expecting to lose no matter who the opponent is. It's just another game and we're going to go into it expecting to win.”

Since Floyd Stadium was expanded in 1998 as part of the football program’s transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the Blue Raiders have not played to a full house.

Saturday’s contest (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network) will be the first in a four-game series in which each team will host the other twice from now through 2018. So if this one does not fill every seat another opportunity awaits in 2017.

"This is the first time we have played Vanderbilt in 10 years,” coach Rick Stockstill said. “I always say that it takes time to build these games up. I know our staff and our players feel excited that we get a chance to play and SEC team.”

Middle Tennessee has won the previous three games in the series but overall is 3-12 against Vanderbilt. The last three meetings have been close contests.

In 2001 Middle Tennessee won 37-28 at Vanderbilt Stadium. That was the first meeting between the two schools since 1956. In 2002 Middle Tennessee came out on top 21-20 after scoring on a last minute drive. The most recent meeting, in 2005, Middle Tennessee blocked a last-minute field goal and topped then unbeaten Vanderbilt (4-0) 17-15.

“Everybody always says that the SEC is the best conference in the country,” Byard said. “Anytime we get a chance to play those guys it's special. It means something to us this week I can promise you that. It's an SEC team so of course you always want to beat an SEC team. I'm not really going to look into that too much. I didn't look too much at the Alabama game like that."

Sep 29, 2015 2:13 PM

Rio Grande De-Fence Briefing: Vanderbilt tough on top offenses

Derek Mason says there is no secret to Vanderbilt’s play on defense.

The word is out, though. It is tough to move the ball against the Commodores.

Vanderbilt has faced three FBS opponents in its first four games and all three boast high-output, high-scoring offenses, none of which produced at the same level against the Commodores, with the exception of Georgia’s rushing offense.

“We just do what we do. I do not think there is any secret sauce,” coach Derek Mason, who doubles as defensive coordinator said following Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss. “I think it is in who we are and how we play and how we function.”

A comparison of season averages on offense versus performance against Vanderbilt for the Commodores’ three FBS opponents:

Western Kentucky


Season avg.

vs. Vanderbilt
















Season avg.

vs. Vanderbilt














Ole Miss


Season avg.

vs. Vanderbilt














Ole Miss second in the country in scoring offense and Georgia is in the top 15. They are the SEC’s top two in total offense, and the Rebels are first in the conference in passing offense while the Bulldogs are first in rushing offense.

Western Kentucky is just outside the top 20 in FBS for total offense.

So it’s not as if Vanderbilt hasn’t been tested.

“We are going to continue to get better,” Mason said. “Teams are not going to want to see us in October and November.”

Up next – on the first weekend in October – is Middle Tennessee State, which twice has scored more than 70 points and is currently 12th in the country (just behind Georgia) in scoring offense at 44.5 points per game.

(Photo: Joe Howell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Sep 28, 2015 11:34 AM

Highlight reel: Ole Miss 27, Vanderbilt 16

Vanderbilt did more than just make things interesting.

There were chances Saturday night for the Commodores to take control at Ole Miss. It was tied midway through the third quarter after Vanderbilt scored on its first two second-half possessions. Then a blocked punt and a missed field goal – among other things – allowed the Rebels to pull away and defeat Vanderbilt 27-16.

A look at some of the notable performers and moments from a promising, but ultimately disappointing performance:


Zach Cunningham, sophomore, linebacker

He led the defense with 11 tackles, including 1 ½ tackles for loss and one sack.

Three times he made tackles on first-and-goal from the 1 or 2-yard line. In one case, Ole Miss eventually got a touchdown. The others started a goal line stand that ended with the Rebels kicking a field goal.

He also had one third-down stop that forced a punt on a night when Ole Miss’ high-powered offense converted just three times in 13 attempts.

The only time he’s had more stops in a game was last year at Mississippi State, when the defense was on the field all night and could not make a stop. This was a much different performance.

Honorable mention
• Ralph Webb, RB: He ran for a season-high 90 yards, the third time in his career  he’s rushed for at least 90 against an SEC opponent. His effort included a career-best 43-yard run that led to the game-tying touchdown midway through the third quarter.

• Stephen Weatherly, OLB (pictured): He had three tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. In short: He was a general menace for the Ole Miss offense.

• Nifae Lealao, DT: He blocked a second-half Ole Miss field goal attempt that would have made it a two-score game and a little more than three minutes later it was a tie game.

The fair catch interference penalty against snapper Jacob Schultz with 3:47 to play in the first half

Vanderbilt was within a touchdown and was hanging around early when Ole Miss returner Carlos Davis allowed a punt to bounce right off his chest. Schultz went the ground and the Commodores seemingly were in business in Rebels’ territory.

Officials inexplicably threw the flag and awarded possession to Ole Miss even though Schultz was a good three yards or more – and stationary – from Davis when the ball arrived.

There’s no guarantee that Vanderbilt would have converted that opportunity into points but it should have had the chance to try – and it would have made the final minutes of the half much more interesting.

Honorable mention
• Oren Burks’ interception 1:43 into the contest: It was the first takeaway for the Vanderbilt defense this season and the first sign that it was going to be a much tougher test for the Ole Miss offense than most anticipated.

• Tommy Openshaw’s 28-yard field goal with 3:17 left in the first quarter: It gave the Commodores a 3-0 lead, which was the first time all season Ole Miss trailed.

• Openshaw’s missed field goal with 9:28 to play: After the defense’s second interception Vanderbilt failed to produce any points. This kick (32 yards) would have made it a one-point game.


• “To be great you have to be bigger than the moment. We just were not bigger than the moment. That is okay. We will take a look at it we fix it.” – Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, on the game.

• “I feel like anytime we get down to the red zone or the maroon zone or close to scoring and we don’t convert, it just sets you back. Our job is to score, so at any time we don’t score I feel pretty bad about it.” – quarterback Johnny McCrary, on the continued red zone struggles.

• “A lot of credit goes to Vanderbilt. They are a better team than people give them credit for.” – Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.


This team is a lot better than it was a year ago and has come a long way since the start of the season. At 1-3 (0-2 in the SEC), it’s still a long way from bowl eligibility.

It was not that long ago that this type of result would have been deemed acceptable. No one can argue with the effort or the overall performance but Vanderbilt still does not do enough of the little things that make good football winning football, and those things are critical in games against teams as talented as Ole Miss.

(Photo: Joe Howell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Sep 28, 2015 6:37 AM