Corbin, Vandy baseball looks forward
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Perspective.
Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin has a lot of it after what has transpired in recent weeks.
The global health threat brought on by COVID-19 forced the NCAA earlier this month to postpone the remainder of the 2020 season for Corbin and his Commodores. That decision came on the heels of an 11-2 win over Toledo at Hawkins Field and just hours before Vandy was to begin Southeastern Conference play against Kentucky on March 13-15.
Then, on March 17, the remainder of the 2020 campaign was officially canceled.
“It was a tough turn of events, really, for these kids to grasp,” Corbin said recently on MLB Network’s MLB Tonight show. “Some of them still don’t – they come into the office and they’re in wonderment of what’s happening. So you just try to explain it to them and how these things will reverse themselves in time.”
Vanderbilt was ranked as high as sixth in the nation the last time it took the field. The defending national champions had won 13 games in 18 contests and four of its losses were by just one run (and the other was a 3-1 decision).
The expectation for Corbin’s latest squad was to return to the postseason once again and, perhaps, revisit the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Whether that ever would have come to fruition will never be known.
“We got to move forward with what’s next,” Corbin told WNSR-AM radio. “More than anything else I’m not going to sit here and feel sorry for the players, myself or our staff. We’re just all in a very difficult situation – I say all meaning in its totality in terms of everyone.
“There’s people with greater issues than losing a baseball season. We just have to put good perspective on it and we have to do what we need to do, that being good citizens and just try to follow the order of people who are smarter and more educated about this situation than us.”
The Commodores finished the abbreviated season leading the nation in ERA (1.84), were third in hits allowed per nine innings (5.51), fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (12.1) and fifth with four shutouts. The 1-2 punch of junior Mason Hickman and sophomore Kumar Rocker at the front of the rotation followed by the combination of sophomore Ethan Smith, junior Jake Eder and freshman Jack Leiter gave Vandy a stable of arms that could seemingly handle any lineup.
Vanderbilt’s batting order was taking shape as well with junior Cooper Davis setting the table in the lead-off spot, junior Austin Martin and sophomore Dominic Keegan finding their swings in the middle and seniors Ty Duvall and Harrison Ray representing the meat of the second-half of the starting nine.
Freshmen CJ Rodriguez, Carter Young, Spencer Jones and Parker Noland were complimenting those veterans nicely.
But now, everyone on the roster has been forced to change gears into an unforeseen and unexpected offseason.
“It’s just communicating with them and telling them to be flexible with what they’re doing,” Corbin said on WNSR. “There’s a lot of things that when they go home, No. 1, their priority is going to be their academics because they’re still in school. No. 2 they’re with their family and No. 3 is just to take care of their mental and physical health while they’re home. And what does that look like? Well it might not look like much, really, in terms of the places that they can go, but it shouldn’t paralyze them.
“They can do a lot of primitive things. There’s a lot of things you can do with your body if you move it outside and if you got some creativity. I think that’s what we demand of them right now, is just to keep mentally and physically healthy and flexible and start thinking outside of yourself and start thinking about other people because that’s important.”
For Ray and Duvall, as well as the program’s draft-eligible student-athletes, if March 11 was indeed their last game in black and gold then the process of making plans for the future have begun much sooner than expected. And for the Commodores who will be back for the 2020-21 academic year and 2021 season, the time is now to look ahead to the possibility of returning to Hawkins Field while not dwelling on the disappointment of a sudden end to another promising spring.
That’s really the only mindset one can have in this present time.
“I always look at these things as being positive,” Corbin said during his MLB Tonight appearance. “They’re challenging at first because no one’s ever gone through them before, but at the same time the positives can outweigh the negatives.”
Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.