Feb. 14, 2008
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Preseason Preview Part One: Infield
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Sophomore Mike Minor returns as the team's ace this season after rising through the ranks to the No. 2 spot in the rotation a year ago. The Chapel Hill, Tenn., native went 9-1 with a 3.09 ERA in 2007, capturing Freshman All-American honors in the process. Minor repeated the process over the summer with the USA National Team as he was one of the last members added to the team in June, and by the end of the summer he had become the staff ace.
Only three other members from last year's staff returns in juniors Brett Jacobson and Nick Christiani and sophomore Jason Cunningham.
Jacobson went 6-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 21 games, including 13 starts. He showed the ability to pitch effectively in relief as well, logging time in critical situations in NCAA play. The righthander's role on this year's team could be as a weekend starter or as a closer.
Nick Christiani went 5-3 with a 4.11 ERA in 17 games, including 11 starts. The New Jersey native will be in the weekend rotation and also has the ability to pitch in relief with two years of experience behind him.
Redshirt freshman Caleb Cotham is also a candidate for a rotation spot after a stellar fall. The righthander is one of several talented players that did not see action a year ago that will play important roles on this staff.
Junior righthander Steven Schwartz redshirted last season after transferring from Penn and is a guy the coaches believe will get an opportunity to make an impact in middle relief.
Redshirt freshman Richie Goodenow will get a chance to pitch out of the pen as will southpaw Jason Cunningham, who shined in relief against Ole Miss in a game that propelled the Commodores into the SEC tournament championship contest. The Atlanta, Ga., product spent his first year with the baseball team as a student assistant and then made the team in the fall of 2006 by showing the ability to get Commodore hitters out. He finished the season with a 1.23 ERA in four appearances.
Redshirt freshman Russell Brewer made the transition from the infield to being a pitcher exclusively and will pitch in middle relief.
Sophomore transfer Drew Hayes along with redshirt freshman Mark Lamm will see significant action from the bullpen with opportunities to close out games this year. Hayes, a righthander from McKenzie, Tenn., was originally recruited by Vanderbilt out of high school but decided to pitch for his dad at Bethel. He possesses a power arm and recorded 86 strikeouts in 72.0 innings last season.
Lamm, a righthander from Loretto, Tenn., was almost brought out of redshirt in the NCAA regionals last year and will get an opportunity early to pitch in relief.
True freshmen Taylor Hill, Chase Reid, Sean Bierman, Ben Blanton, Kellen St. Luce and Jared Cohen round out the staff and could have roles in relief with an eye towards the future.
Hill, a righthander from Mt. Juliet, Tenn., showed the coachies in the fall that he could be a factor with his advanced pitching skills.
Reid, a righthander from Dallas, Texas, was limited in the fall due to an injury but should be able to pitch this year with his ability to throw strikes with a good breaking ball.
Bierman, a lefthander from Kinnelon, N.J., has control of three pitches and could pitch early.
Two more southpaws, Blanton from Atlanta, Ga., and St. Luce from The Virgin Islands, are talented hurlers whose impact will be felt on future squads as they develop their skills this year.
Cohen, a righthander from Pennsylvania, impressed the coaches with his work ethic and strength in the weight room. He most likely will get an opportunity in seasons to come.
"Pitching is tough to figure right now just because I don't believe most people have defined roles," said Corbin. "The roles in the middle and at the end are kind of undetermined at this point, but if you look at the pitching for what it is, I feel comfortable with it. We've got some good ability out there. We've got three kids with a lot of experience that can start for anyone. We have SEC type pitchers that haven't pitched yet in the conference. I'd like to think that pitching in March will be a whole lot different than the pitching in April. These kids will get better day-by-day."
A talented and experienced offense should lead the Commodores in the early part of the year, while the pitching staff develops and gains experience heading into conference play. This season's team is a very determined group that looks to continue where they left off in 2007 in taking Vanderbilt Baseball into heights they have never seen.