Swanson, Fulmer take top honors from College Baseball Hall of Fame

Dansby Swanson and Carson Fulmer have done a lot together during the last three years.

They were teammates and roommates at Vanderbilt. Each played a critical role in the Commodores’ 2014 national championship and both were selected in the first round of the 215 Major League Baseball draft.

So it made perfect sense that the two shared the stage Monday at the College Baseball Hall of Fame’s Night of Champions.

The organization presented Swanson its Brooks Wallace Award, which recognizes the year’s most outstanding shortstop. Fulmer was named the National Pitcher of the Year.

For Swanson (pictured), the award continues the momentum he has built in terms of individual recognition after a slow start. He lost out to LSU’s Alex Bregman for the first-team All-SEC shortstop but was the first overall pick in the draft, one spot ahead of Bregman. Last week the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named him a first-team All-American and placed Bregman on its second team.

"It was a challenging process this year to make our choice from all the players who put up incredible numbers," Larry Wallace, co-chairman of the Brooks Wallace Award said in a release from the Hall of Fame. "With so many of the top shortstops making it to the College World Series it was great to be able to watch them play extensively. Not only is Dansby an incredible player, we feel he exemplifies the characteristics and qualities that the Brooks Wallace Award represents."

The award in named in memory of former Texas Tech shortstop Brooks Wallace (1977-80), who died from leukemia when he was 27.

Fulmer, also a first-team All-American by the NCBWA, was the SEC Pitcher of the Year and the Commodores’ only first-team All-SEC player this year. He led the conference in wins (14), ERA (1.83), strikeouts (167) and innings pitched (127 2/3).

"To put up those kind of numbers in arguably the toughest conference in the country is truly remarkable," Raymond Richardson, Pitcher of the Year Award co-chair, said in a release. "Carson was a key part of his team's run to the final game of the College World Series, and we look forward to seeing what he does at the next level of his career."

(Photo: Craig Pessman/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 30, 2015 11:53 AM

Vanderbilt Alumni Association to honor Price for pro success

David Price won his fair share of awards while he attended Vanderbilt and collected another notable one after he left.

Now the university plans to give the 29-year-old pitcher one of its own.

Price has been chosen as the recipient of the 2015 Vanderbilt University Alumni Association Board of Directors Young Professional Achievement Award, which recognizes “an alumnus/alumna, age 40 or under, with a significant record of career achievement and a promise for future professional success.”

“Price is a passionate advocate for Vanderbilt and represents the university and himself with the highest standards of excellence both on and off the diamond. He is a consummate professional who is at the pinnacle of his profession and has tremendous promise for future success,” Alumni Association Board Director Jeff Spencer said in a release from the school.

Price was an All-American pitcher for the Commodores who won numerous national player of the year honors in 2007, including the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy. He was the first overall pick in that year’s Major League Baseball draft and made his MLB debut the following year.

He won the 2012 American League Cy Young Award and has been selected to the MLB All-Star Game four times. He led the A.L. in wins (20) and earned run average (2.56)  in 2012 (20) and in strikeouts (271) in 2014.

The left-hander is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this season and will be highly sought after by many teams.

Price completed his degree from Vanderbilt in 2009.

He will receive this latest award during homecoming festivities in the fall.

Jun 30, 2015 6:10 AM

Top-ranked Vanderbilt recruiting classes lived up to hype, formed core of CWS teams

Want to know how to build one of the best college baseball teams in America?

It’s simple. Recruit the best players.

Vanderbilt’s 2014 national championship and return to the College World Series final this week did not happen by accident. According to Baseball America, Tim Corbin and his staff put together the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class in 2011 and 2012 — and many of the players from those two groups were central to the program’s unprecedented success these past two seasons.

“You can't put it into perspective right now how I feel about our group,” Corbin said after his team lost to Virginia in this year’s best-of-three national championship series. “And I won't do that. That will be for private time. But I don't know if I'll have another group like this again. This is going to be a tough, tough group to replicate.”

In particular, the 2012 class, of which Baseball America wrote, “No class can match the versatility and upside of Vanderbilt’s,” turned out to be as good as advertised.

Based on player ratings at the time, the top four recruits, in order, were pitcher Walker Buehler, pitcher Carson Fulmer, outfielder Rhett Wiseman and shortstop Dansby Swanson. All four were central figures to the team’s two-year run, and Swanson (pictured), Fulmer and Buehler all were first-round picks in the 2015 Major League draft.

Also among that year’s signees were third baseman Xavier Turner, pitcher Tyler Ferguson and infielder Tyler Campbell.

Here is some of what Baseball America wrote of the class before any of the signees ever played a college game:

For the second straight year, Vandy reeled in a power-armed righty who ranks as the nation's top recruit; like Tyler Beede before him, Buehler can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and has good command of his secondary pitches—a devastating power curveball and a sinking changeup. Fulmer gives this class a second marquee arm with a 92-95 mph fastball and a slider that flashes plus. Stephenson and Ferguson offer projection and electric arm strength, as both … In Swanson, Vandy has a quick-twitch, instinctive shortstop with smooth infield actions and a fundamentally sound swing. Wiseman and Turner offer serious athleticism, bat speed and power potential.

Beede, of course, was the prized recruit in the 2011 class that also included pitchers Philip Pfeifer and Adam Ravenelle, first baseman Zander Wiel and outfielder John Norwood, among others.

“I mean, when you're able to come together, 35 strong each year and basically have 34 new best friends every year, it's a special moment,” Swanson said Wednesday. “And that's what we create. We have a family. It's not just 35 players, it's 50, because we have all the staff and the coaches that put so much effort in. So it's a special thing. I've never been a part of something this amazing in my life.”

(Photo: Joe Howell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 26, 2015 1:14 PM

Vanderbilt products selected for MLB All-Star Futures Game

Tyler Beede and Tony Kemp will be teammates once again.

The former Vanderbilt stars were selected Thursday to play in the All-Star Futures Game, which pits a team of top U.S-born minor league prospects versus a team of international prospects. Each side consists of 25 minor league prospects, regardless of level.

Beede and Kemp will play for the U.S. Team.

Beede (pictured), the 14th overall selection in 2014 by San Francisco, is one of 13 first-round picks among the 50 players chosen for this year’s Futures Game, which will take place at Cincinnati two days before the MLB All-Star Game.

The right-handed pitcher started the season with Class A San Jose but recently was promoted to Class AA Richmond. He is 1-2 with a 5.01 ERA for his current team.

Kemp, a fifth-round choice in 2013 by Houston, started the season at Class AA Corpus Christi and recently was promoted to Class AAA Fresno. He is hitting .354 for the year, including .358 with his current team. His 25-game hit streak, which tied the longest in minor league baseball this season, ended Wednesday night but he bounced back with a hit Thursday.

Jun 26, 2015 6:27 AM

Corbin's many moves not enough; Vanderbilt falls short in CWS final

Tim Corbin tried.

The Vanderbilt coach made an abundance of moves in an attempt to win the decisive third game of the 2015 College World Series final and secure a second straight national championship. Even before the first pitch he adjusted his lineup. And he kept making changes all the way to the final out.

Some worked. Some did not. The result, though, was a 4-2 loss to Virginia and one national title apiece for the programs that have faced off for the crown each of the last two years.

“I just really want to congratulate Virginia. I mean, I think that's first and foremost,” Corbin said following the contest. “…You have to give them a lot of credit.”

A look at the most prominent decisions Corbin made and how successful they were on scale of 1 to 10 (1 = that didn’t work; 10 = inspired thinking).

Designated hitter switch:  A freshman out of Montgomery Bell Academy, Penn Murfee appeared in fewer than half the games this season and was a .243 hitter. Yet Corbin went with him over Ro Coleman, who was dominant in the regional and super regional but had been far less successful at Omaha.

Murfee had two of the Commodores’ five hits, including a double. Both of his hits gave his team a chance to get something going but he did not score a run. Success rating: 6.

A quick hook: Starting pitcher Walker Buehler is a first-round draft pick and hardly was overworked during the NCAA Tournament. He held Virginia scoreless through the first three innings but then gave up a two-run home run and a walk to start the fourth and Corbin went to the bullpen. From there he used four different pitchers over the final six innings.

Collin Snider and Ben Bowden needed just three pitches combined to get the final two outs of the fifth inning. John Kilichowski didn’t allow a hit in 1 1/3 innings but the one batter he walked scored what turned out to be the game-winning run. Success rating: 5.

Change at the top: Connected to the decision to go with Murfree at designated hitter was the choice to move Bryan Reynolds from fifth in the lineup to the leadoff spot.

Reynolds had been one of the Commodores’ most consistent hitters throughout the CWS. In this one, he did not have a hit but led off the game with a walk and scored the first run in the top of the first. Success rating: 4.

Counting on a miracle: After Murfee’s two-out single in the bottom of the ninth, Corbin called on Kyle Smith to pinch hit. It was an obvious attempt to tie the game with one swing given that Smith is a player who has the size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) but not the stats (one hit in 15 at-bats for the season) to suggest he could do it.

Smith fouled off one two-strike pitch but allowed the game to end on a called third strike. Success rating: 1.

(Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 25, 2015 5:13 AM

Kemp matches season's longest minor league hitting streak

It does not matter what team Tony Kemp plays for or against. He just keeps hitting.

The 2013 SEC player of the Year at Vanderbilt extended his current hitting streak to 25 games with a pair of hits Tuesday.

That ties the longest streak in minor league baseball this season. Mariners prospect Dario Pizzano hit safely in 25 straight earlier in the year.

A fifth-round draft pick (2013), Kemp is rising swiftly in the Houston Astros organization. He started the streak with Class AA Corpus Christi and has continued it through the first 13 games since he was promoted to Class AAA Fresno, which plays at home Wednesday night.

“I don't think I can recall a time like this,” Kemp said, according to MILB.com. “Just keeping things simple; I keep saying that and it's kind of cliché, but that's really what it is. You have four to five opportunities to get up there and have good, quality at-bats. …  You can't get too high or too low on yourself, you got to stay even keel. And if you hit the ball hard, you win.

“You're not going to get hits every game, but if you can just have good quality at-bats, good things are going to happen.”

Kemp has struck out just twice in his first 13 games at Fresno, where he has hit .385 with two extra-base hits. His was off Monday and now has a game scheduled every day until July 13.

“I have no idea [how long it will last],” he said. Honestly you can't really worry yourself about the streak. This time doesn't last long, the window for baseball doesn't last forever, so you just got to take advantage while you got the opportunity.”

Jun 24, 2015 3:30 PM

Vanderbilt's bullpen fully armed for College World Series finale

If anyone in Vanderbilt’s bullpen is tired, it might be Ben Bowden.

The sophomore lefthander (pictured) is the only Commodores pitcher who has appeared in each of the first two games of the 2015 College World Series final. He needed just six pitches to get one out on Monday and threw 22 in an inning and third on Tuesday.

That, though, is not enough to remove him from consideration for Wednesday’s decisive Game 3 (7 p.m., ESPN).

“I think you get to this point in the tournament and everyone's on go,” coach Tim Corbin said.

For the second year in a row, Vanderbilt and Virginia will go the distance in the best-of-three CWS championship series.

A year ago the Commodores used only three pitchers in their 3-2 clinching victory after having used four in each of the first two games. This time they used three in each of the first two contests. That after their starters went at least six innings in each of the three games of pool play.

If they need to go to the bullpen early and often this time, they certainly are prepared to do so. Walker Buehler, a first-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in this month’s MLB draft, will be the starter.

A look at how much Vanderbilt’s relief pitchers have been used at the 2015 College World Series:

Kyle Wright – 3 games, 3.2 innings
John Kilichowski – 2 games, 4.2 innings
Ben Bowden – 2 games, 1.2 innings
Jordan Sheffield – 1 game, 1 inning

By comparison, Virginia’s Josh Sborz threw four innings (77 pitches) on Tuesday alone.

“You will not see Josh Sborz (Wednesday) night,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “… Brandon Waddell will start. Past that, I'm not sure what we'll do. But this was kind of how we had mapped it out when we had looked at this about a week ago on what was going to give us the best chance to put our team in a chance to win a championship. And here we are, and Waddell is going to get the ball. But we'll see where we go from there.”

Waddell, a junior left-hander, was a fifth-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2015 MLB Draft.

The only pitchers Corbin ruled out were Carson Fuller and Philip Pfeifer, his starters in each of the first two games, although even he conceded that there probably would be some debate on that front.

“You know (Fulmer) will be fighting to grab the ball in a situation that was worthy,” Corbin said. “But I think the bullpen is all ready to go.”

(Photo: Joe Howell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 24, 2015 2:50 PM

Vanderbilt plays the waiting game when it comes to scoring

Either way, Vanderbilt’s season will end Wednesday.

It would help their chances for a second straight national championship if the Commodores could get off to a good start.

Tuesday they didn’t score at all and fell 3-0 to Virginia in Game 2 of the final series. That forced a winner-take-all third contest Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN).

“I think you have to, you have to just wipe the slate clean,” first baseman Zander Wiel said. “You can't carry the game with you. Obviously we struggled (Tuesday) night offensively. But we just have to have a clear mind going into (Wednesday) and do what we do every day, and that's trust our preparation and trust our (batting practice), and we'll be ready to go.”

Simply put: Most of runs the Vanderbilt has produced at Omaha have come in the later half of games.

The Commodores have scored 17 times in their five CWS games thus far but only three in their first three innings of those contests. They scored that many in the ninth of their opener, when they rallied to defeat Cal State Fullerton. A day later scored the only run they needed in the seventh inning against TCU.

A breakdown of when Vanderbilt has scored runs during the 2015 College World Series:

Innings 1-3: 3

Innings: 4-6: 7

Innings: 7-9: 7

Three of the last four games have been scoreless ties at least through five innings. Tuesday’s contest turned in the bottom of the sixth, when Virginia scored three times – all with two outs and all unearned.

“They got the timely hit,” coach Tim Corbin said. “They got the timely hit that we didn't. So you have to credit them.”

Vanderbilt has now played 16 all-time games at the CWS. Tuesday was just the second time it failed to score a run, also the second time in 70 games this season. At last season’s CWS, the Commodores bounced back from a 4-0 loss to Texas and won 4-3 in 10 innings, which clinched a spot in the championship series. They closed out the 2015 regular season with a 1-0 loss to Alabama then defeated Missouri 7-6 in 10 innings in their first game at the SEC Tournament.

In last year’s CWS final, Vanderbilt scored the decisive run on John Norwood’s solo home run in the eighth inning of Game 3. However, it started that contest with one run in the first and never trailed.

“They're trying. They're kids,” Corbin said. “They want to hit, too. … And I thought even during the middle of (Tuesday’s) game, even at the end of it I thought they were very positive. I thought we were going to crack it open at some point and always do. It just didn't happen.”

(Photo: Joe Howell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 24, 2015 6:38 AM

Vanderbilt baseball viewing party becoming an annual event

Everybody had fun last year.

So once again, with its baseball team in position to win a national championship, Vanderbilt will open its football stadium to anyone who wants to watch Tuesday’s College World Series Game. The contest, Game 2 of the CWS final between the Commodores and Virginia, will be shown on the stadium’s primary video board.

Admission and parking are free and gates open at 6 p.m., one hour before the start of the game. Fans may sit on the field (blankets upon which to sit are encouraged) or in the stands.

Concessions will be available but fans also will be permitted to bring their own food and drink. Alcohol of any kind is prohibited.

Vanderbilt won the best-of-three championship series opener 5-1 on Monday. With one more victory the team will win its second straight national championship, Vanderbilt’s third in a 13-month span and fourth all-time.

The women’s tennis team won the NCAA championship last month. The women’s bowling team won the school’s first national title in 2007.

A large crowd gathered to watch last year’s championship-clinching contest, a 3-2 victory over Virginia on June 26, 2014.

If the Commodores lose Tuesday, the stadium will be open again for Wednesday’s decisive contest.

Jun 23, 2015 2:18 PM

Vanderbilt sticks to script used by recent repeat CWS champions

If you’re going to win the College World Series for a second straight year, you might as well do so emphatically.

That’s what South Carolina did. After winning it all in 2010, the Gamecocks came back in 2011 and went undefeated at Omaha.

That’s what Oregon State did. The Beavers won the national title in 2006 then did it again in 2007, their encore performance a string of five straight triumphs without a defeat.

Following a 5-1 victory over Virginia in Game 1 of the 2015 final series, Vanderbilt is in position to become the third team in the last decade to repeat as CWS champions – and the third to go undefeated in the CWS the second time around.

The Commodores’ opportunity comes in Game 2 on Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPN). If they fail to sweep, the decisive Game 3 will be Wednesday.

“I think the thing that we've been preaching the past couple of years is just staying in the moment, worrying about what we can control right now,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “That's what we're going to do. We're going to worry about (Tuesday) when it gets here and our preparation when it's time for that, and then the game when it gets here. Just like we do, try to win innings frame by frame.”

A look at Vanderbilt’s results at the 2015 College World Series:

Vanderbilt 4, Cal State Fullerton 3
Vanderbilt 1, TCU 0
Vanderbilt 7, TCU 3
Vanderbilt 5, Virginia 1

Winning championships is never easy. There is reason to believe, though, that it does get a little easier the second time around.

A year ago Vanderbilt faced elimination twice before it hoisted the trophy. This time it has not trailed in any of its last three games.

South Carolina lost its CWS opener in 2010 then won six straight for its first title. Oregon lost its 2006 opener and then dropped Game 1 of the finals en route to that first championship.

It is not like the Commodores have dominated every step of the way since they got to Omaha this year. A rain delay that suspended play overnight was a big factor in the opening victory over Cal State Fullerton. They then were no-hit for more than six innings in the first game against TCU before Zander Wiel’s home run provided all the scoring.

“It's a game of baseball. You never know what to expect,” pitcher Carson Fulmer said Sunday. “And every time you go out there things could go your way or not. But at the end of the day we stuck to our routine and we stuck to what we do on a daily basis. And we're lucky to be here and get a chance to do it again.”

At this point, they have a chance to do it exactly the way the two most recent repeat champions did it.

(Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 23, 2015 6:56 AM