By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, The Vanderbilt Commodores are technically defending national college baseball champions because the pandemic wiped out last season’s College World Series. While the season is far from over, the Commodores thus far have looked even more formidable than usual. They begin the week ranked number one in the nation, have posted a 23-3 record and completed a weekend sweep over number 25 LSU Saturday. They have won nine straight games, and in two of last weekend’s three games scored double digit runs.
The first thing that frightens most teams that face the Commodores is the strength of their pitching staff. Their number one and two starters, Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter are both undefeated (7-0). Both are projected to be at minimum Top 10 (if not Top five) in the upcoming MLB draft. Neither has to pitch complete games because the bullpen is deep and diversified as well. The offense continues to be equally formidable, good enough to power the team to a 7-2 mark against Top 25 competition. When a team gets 42 hits and scores 29 runs in three games against a Top 25 club that’s an indicator of its offensive prowess.
Vanderbilt’s next game was Tuesday against the OVC’s UT Martin, followed b another weekend SEC series against Georgia and then an April 13 contest against Eastern Kentucky. But without overlooking anyone, many SEC baseball observers point to the April 16-18 road series against the Tennessee Volunteers as a critical test for the Commodores. Tennessee has one of its best teams in years, and it began the week ranked sixth in the nation and directly behind Vanderbilt in the SEC East. All those games will be televised most likely on the SEC Network and Tennessee wants to prove it can compete with the Commodores for divisional and conference supremacy.