Posted: 12:03 p.m. Monday, May 20, 2013
By Christian D'Andrea
One year after rallying to get to the NCAA Tournament, Vanderbilt won't have to hold their breath or rely on a big showing in Hoover to earn a postseason berth. The top-ranked Commodores just pulled off an unprecedented run in conference play to stamp their place in the history books as one of the SEC's most dominant teams.
Vanderbilt finished the 2013 regular season with a 26-3 league mark, setting the Southeastern Conference record for most wins in a season despite losing a game due to rainout against South Carolina. The 'Dores ran through the regular season without losing a single weekend series and trailed for just 26.5 innings in their 29 SEC games. That mark helped Tim Corbin's team earn the top spot in the Coaches', BaseballAmerica, and National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association polls.
Of course, these Commodores got through with a bit of scheduling luck as well. The SEC missed out on what could have been the biggest regular season matchup of the year when Vandy failed to draw #2 LSU as a conference opponent. The 'Dores also missed out on a showdown with #13 Arkansas. However, Vanderbilt still ran through several ranked teams on their way to the top. They defeated top 20 programs like Oregon, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Louisville, and Mississippi State in convincing fashion to stake their claim as one of the best teams to ever call Hawkins Field home.
As a result, Vandy will be the top seed when the SEC Tournament gets underway this week. They'll face the winner of Tuesday's game between Florida and Texas A&M; after a first-round bye. The 'Dores have faced both teams this season, sweeping the Aggies and winning two of three against the Gators. Vanderbilt and Florida have some recent history in Hoover - the Gators eliminated the Diamond Dores in the tournament final in 2011, and Vanderbilt swept the Gators out of the bracket in 2012 thanks in part to a rare triple steal.
Vanderbilt will have to close out their SEC slate on a strong note to hang on to that top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, even with a disastrous finish in Hoover they should be tabbed for a top-three ranking and a pair of hosting gigs at Hawkins Field - assuming they make it to the Super Regionals. After a monstrous regular season, anything less than a trip to Omaha for the College World Series would feel like a disappointment.