Gone from Vanderbilt, Norwood still hitting home runs in June

John Norwood can’t help Vanderbilt win another College World Series.

Even so, it seems he can’t help but be productive at this time of year.

The hero of the Commodores’ 2014 national championship hit two home runs, including his first professional grand slam, and drove in six runs for the Greensboro Grasshoppers on Tuesday, the same night Vanderbilt won its second straight game at the 2015 College World Series.

“I never really look at the numbers,” Norwood said, according to MILB.com. "I've been hitting the ball hard all year. I try to come to the field every day and put in the effort to get the team a win. People outside of baseball might look at the numbers and make judgments. I mean, the numbers are always going to be there, but it's not always worth the battle."

Coming into the game he had just three home runs and 17 RBIs in 51 games for the Miami Marlins’ Class A affiliate. He has six hits in his last five games, which as raised his average to .223.

Of course, he had only two home runs in 67 games for Vanderbilt last season before he hit a fastball out of TD Ameritrade Park in the decisive contest of the 2014 CWS championship series.

“Approach-wise, I'm just trying to work the fastball,” he said. “I've been taking a lot of them and I've been trying to get after those fastballs rather than letting them go. It's been feeling good the last couple days.

“… I think for sure, this is the best I've played.”

Jun 17, 2015 1:31 PM

Wiel comfortable playing part of Commodores' CWS catalyst

Zander Wiel was the one who got it started Monday.

On Tuesday, Vanderbilt’s offense began and ended with the junior first baseman. His solo home run in the seventh inning broke up a no-hitter and lifted Vanderbilt to a 1-0 victory over TCU at the 2015 College World Series.

The Commodores’ defense of their 2014 championship now includes a pair of one-run victories in as many games. Their next contest is 7 p.m. Friday against either LSU or TCU.

Wiel struck out in his other three at-bats but drove a change-up over the left field fence off TCU pitcher Alex Young, who struck out 12 and allowed three hits in 7.2 innings. It was his 15th home run of the season, which tied him with Dansby Swanson for the team lead.

“(Young) would throw them low and we were going after them,” Wiel said. “So he was just really able to keep us off balance. And in that at-bat, I was just … he threw me a changeup and it had been higher than the rest of the ones he had thrown. It still wasn't a terrible pitch. But it was hit-able. And I just put a good swing on it.”

A day earlier Wiel’s sixth-inning double drove in Vanderbilt’s first run when its CWS opener against Cal State Fullerton resumed after having been suspended Sunday night because of weather. He doubled again to start a three-run, ninth-inning rally that lifted the Commodores to a 4-3 victory.

Through two games he is 3-for-8 with two runs scored and two RBIs.

“Last year it really helped because you kind of get, I don't want to say overwhelmed when it's your first time experiencing it, but seeing it the second time, it puts you a lot more at ease in this venue,” he said. “I'm just trying to go up and compete every time and put a good swing on a ball and hit it hard somewhere. I've been able to do that the last couple of days.”

(Photo: John Peterson/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 17, 2015 5:38 AM

Avoiding big mistakes allows Pfeifer to get the best of TCU

Philip Pfeifer was not the best pitcher on the field at TD Ameritrade Park on Tuesday.

Vanderbilt’s senior left-hander did not make the worst mistake, though.

“I was just trying to soak in every minute of it that I could while I was out there on the mound,” he said. “I've been looking forward for this moment for a long time and playing it over and over in my head and I feel like taking advantage of (Tuesday’s) game was kind of what kept me at peace.”

Pfeifer pitched seven innings in his first College World Series appearance and none of the four hits or three walks he allowed led to a run. After seven shutout innings and 111 pitches he turned it over to freshman Kyle Wright, who closed out the Commodores’ 1-0 victory, their second one-run triumph in as many days.

It was Vanderbilt’s first shutout in 13 all-time CWS contests.

“He was very tranquil on the mound, he was at peace with himself and he was executing his pitches,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said of Pfeifer. “And I don't think that there was anyone here that enjoys being in Omaha, the moment more than he does.”

TCU’s Alex Young was even better – most of the time, at least. The junior left-hander struck out 11 and did not allow a hit through the first six innings but then gave up a solo home run to Zander Wiel on a changeup that accounted for all the scoring.

"It was just one mistake and his bat just ran into the ball," Young said. "Every other pitch I was throwing for a strike. And it's bad luck."

It wasn’t just this one day. though. Young looked better than Pfeifer throughout most of the season -- in their respective stat lines and in the eyes of professional scouts.

Pfeifer entered the game with a 5-4 record and a 4.09 ERA and opponents hit .221 against him. He was a third-round choice (101st overall) in last week’s Major League draft.

Young was 9-2 with a 2.31 ERA and opponents hit .217 against him. The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted him in the second round (43rd overall) last week.

“I thought Young was obviously very, very effective,” Corbin said. “And I credit him, because once he found that we were going to make moves to pitches below the strike zone he kept forcing that. And he pitched very, very well.

"One ball made the difference. And that's the one Zander hit out."

(Photo: John Peterson/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 17, 2015 5:29 AM

Two former Commodores named to single minor league All-Star team

Tony Kemp and Conrad Gregor just seem to go together.

The two were teammates for three years at Vanderbilt and then got drafted by the Houston Astros two rounds apart in 2013. Now they’re members of the same All-Star team.

Kemp, a second baseman, and Gregor (pictured), a first baseman, were named Texas League All-Stars on Monday. They were among nine Corpus Christi Hooks players selected, the most of any team. Corpus Christi is the Class AA affiliate of the Houston Astros.

Each was selected as a starter.

Kemp currently is in Class AAA following a recent promotion and a replacement was named for him. He led the Texas League in batting average (.358) and on-base percentage (.457) at the time he was reassigned.

Gregor is batting .262 with two home runs and 29 RBIs. His RBI total ranks third on the team.

The Texas League All-Star Game is scheduled for June 30 at Corpus Christi.

Jun 16, 2015 5:10 AM

Corbin not a factor in Clemson's search for next baseball coach

Any fears that Vanderbilt fans might have about the possibility for Tim Corbin to return to Clemson should be eased at this point.

The Greenville News reported late last week that three candidates have interviewed to replace legendary coach Jack Leggett, who was fired earlier this month, and that the process continues to move forward – without the Vanderbilt coach.

Corbin is one of several notable college had coaches who worked under Leggett, who guided that program for 22 years and six College World Series appearances. Corbin was an assistant under Leggett from 1994 through 2002, including associate head coach for the final two seasons.

From The Greenville News:

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan and Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin also have been rumored to be potential candidates early in the process after Leggett was fired on June 4, but neither is expected to jump at the opportunity to replace their former mentor.

O'Sullivan's and Corbin's teams are (at) the College World Series, and both coaches may be reluctant to leave, given not only their close association with Leggett but also because both are immersed in thriving Southeastern Conference programs that have become NCAA Tournament and College World Series fixtures.

The report said College of Charleston head coach Monte Lee, Maryland head coach John Szefc and Virginia assistant Kevin McMullan have interviewed.

Had Leggett ben fired several years ago, Corbin might have considered the move as an attempt to continue the legacy of one of his mentors. Currently at the College World Series for the third time in five years (this time as defending champion), however, Corbin has established Vanderbilt as his own program, one that is among the nation’s elite. Thus, there is no need for him to think he might want to be anywhere else.

(Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 15, 2015 11:32 AM

Re-start of Vanderbilt-Fullerton game delayed

The re-start of Vanderbilt’s suspended baseball game against Cal State Fullerton at the College World Series has been moved to 2 p.m. (CDT)

Play was halted Sunday night in the bottom of the sixth inning and originally scheduled to resume at 11 a.m.

The Commodores trail the Titans 3-0 but will have a man on third with two outs when play begins again.

ESPN2 will broadcast the remainder of the contest.

Jun 15, 2015 10:22 AM

Rain delay gives Vanderbilt time to regroup against Fullerton

Update: The resumption of play has been moved back to 2 p.m. Central.

Vanderbilt will have more than 12 hours to try to figure out how to get Rhett Wiseman home from third base.

That’s where the junior right fielder was Sunday night when weather caused the Commodores’ College World Series opener to be suspended at 9:22 p.m. Vanderbilt trailed Cal State Fullerton 3-0 but had Wiseman at third base with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.

Play is scheduled to resume at 11 a.m. Monday (ESPN2).

The delay does mean that Vanderbilt won’t have to face Fullerton starter Thomas Eshelman anymore. The junior right-hander allowed four hits with no walks and struck out eight.

Wiseman hit a one-out double in the sixth and, after Dansby Swanson struck out, moved to third on a passed ball.  That’s when play was called.

Tyler Campbell got to third with one out in the third inning but Vanderbilt failed to get him home.

Jun 15, 2015 7:02 AM

Chicago could see former Vanderbilt stars come and go

One professional athlete with ties to Middle Tennessee is talking about getting out of Chicago. Or at least his wife is.

Another has a good portion of the Windy City talking about the possibility that he might move there in the not-too-distant future.

On balance, many Chicago sports fans probably would trade Jay Cutler for David Price right now but that can’t happen. Price is currently playing for the Detroit Tigers and is under contract for the remainder of the season. Cutler (pictured) recently signed a contract extension with the NFL’s Bears that runs through 2020.

Price talked about a pair of significant connections he has with the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, which had that town’s media immediately connecting the dots.

Price, a 29-year-old, four-time All-Star and the 2012 A.L. Cy Young Award winner, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. His manager for most of the first seven years of his career was Joe Maddon, now the man in charge of the Cubs.

“Joe is a very unique manager," Price said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "He was perfect for our team in Tampa. It's kind of the same way in Chicago right now.

"He does a really good job of making everybody in the clubhouse comfortable, loose and relaxed. When you have young guys, that's what you need.”

On top of his comfort level with the Major League manager, Price knows well the Cubs’ minor league pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who was Vanderbilt’s pitching coach when Price was a college All-American.

“[Johnson] had a big hand in making me the pitcher I am,” Price said. “I still have a lot of stuff from him — you'd call it my staples.

“Coach Johnson was the one who instilled all that stuff in me, and I'm forever grateful for everything he has done for me.”

He certainly sounds like someone who would be comfortable playing in Chicago, if that’s how things work out.

On the other hand, Cutler’s wife, actress Kristin Cavallari, told Elle magazine that the couple can’t wait to bolt that city and establish full-time residence in Nashville, where they recently built a six-bedroom home. Cutler, of course, was a star quarterback at Vanderbilt during the 1990s.

“Jay hates LA," Cavallari told Elle’s website in an article posted this week. "And Chicago's just not home."

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jun 12, 2015 5:10 AM

Former Vanderbilt star keeps hitting, even in Class AAA debut

Tony Kemp extended his hitting streak to 13 games Wednesday – and ended his time with the Houston Astros’ Class AA affiliate.

The 2013 Vanderbilt All-American was promoted to Class AAA on Thursday and immediately made his debut with the Fresno Grizzlies. He led off an went 1-for-4 with a run scored in a 5-4 victory at Salt Lake.

A second baseman, Kemp has played 50 games for the Class AA Corpus Christi Hooks this season. He leads the Texas League in batting average (.354) and on-base percentage (.453) and is tied for fourth with 15 stolen bases. His batting average ranks third among all minor leagues.

During that current streak, Kemp went 20-for-45 (.444) with eight runs, three doubles, one triple, three RBIs, seven walks and five stolen bases.

The promotion maintains a pace that Kemp kept last season, his first full year as a pro. He started 2014 in Class A (advanced) and was promoted to Class AA in late June.

The next step is the last one – the Major Leagues.

The Astros, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2013, are not in need of immediate help. They currently are tied for the most wins in the American League but they have lost seven in a row.

Jun 11, 2015 11:07 PM

Swanson named All-American, National Player of the Year

Dansby Swanson’s swan song has turned into a chart-topper. At last.

Days after the Vanderbilt shortstop was the first player taken in the Major League Baseball draft, D1Baseball.com named him a first-team All-American and its Player of the Year.

That after Southeastern Conference coaches named Swanson to the All-SEC second team. The first-team shortstop was LSU’s Alex Bregman, who was the second overall pick in the draft. D1Baseball.com managed to name Bregman a first-team All-American as well – at designated hitter.

From D1Baseball.com:

Swanson ranks in the nation’s top 20 in home runs, double, triples, slugging, hits and runs. He ranks 21st in RBIs and second in total bases. He’s also put his plus speed to use on the basepaths, where he’s stolen 16 bases in 18 attempts. And he has played brilliant defense at the crucial and demanding shortstop position, regularly making dazzling plays while also fielding a strong .975 in his first college season at the position (he played second last year).

Furthermore, Swanson has played very well when it matters most, helping to lead the Commodores back to Omaha for the second straight year. In five NCAA tournament games, Swanson is hitting .350 with seven runs, four RBIs, two homers and two doubles.

His teammate and close friend, pitcher Carson Fulmer, also was on the first team, which made Vanderbilt one of two schools with multiple first-team selections. The other was LSU with Bregman and catcher Kade Scivicque.

Swanson is certain to turn pro following the College World Series, where the defending champion Commodores open play Sunday.

The final days of his college career, though, have included a steady stream of personal accolades. He also has been named a finalist (along with Fulmer) for the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy.

(Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 11, 2015 11:49 AM