Raby in Command

Senior pitcher on cusp of becoming all-time winningest Commodore

by Zac Ellis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In 1973, Vanderbilt pitcher Jeff Peeples capped his prolific college career as a first-team All-SEC honoree and a second-team All-American, the first Commodore to earn All-America recognition in program history. He helped the Commodores win the 1972 SEC Championship and led the conference in earned-run average in consecutive years in 1971-72.

Peeples, who passed away in 1996, also ended his Vanderbilt career as the program’s leader in career wins with 29. That durable record has stood for the last 46 years.

This weekend, senior Patrick Raby might have something to say about that.

As No. 4 Vanderbilt hits the road for a three-game series at South Carolina, Raby could sink the career wins mark that has stood for nearly a half-century. Raby is the Dores’ Sunday starter, and he tied the record in last Sunday’s 9-5 win over No. 25 Auburn. With a solid outing against the Gamecocks this weekend, Raby will etch his name into the Vandy record books as the winningest pitcher in program history.

“It means a lot,” Raby said. “I’ve been asked a lot how I got there, and I always tell them it’s my teammates. It’s an individual record, but it’s an individual record I’ve gotten to because of my teammates. I’m not really focused on it. I’m focused on, keep winning and keep winning as a team.”

Raby’s performance last Sunday helped the Commodores claim a series sweep over the visiting Tigers. He allowed just five hits and one run while striking out eight and walking four in 6.1 innings.

This season, Raby is 7-1 with a 2.77 ERA. The Knoxville, Tenn. native has given up one or no runs in seven of his 11 starts. That steady production comes as no surprise to Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin.

“Consistency,” Corbin said. “Really, that’s his personality. Going back to Farragut High School, that’s how he’s operated. Consistent in every way — academically, socially, how he treats others, how he goes about his everyday life. He’s a very good competitor. It might be internal in how it looks, but he’s a tremendous competitor. He gets what he deserves.”

Raby’s performance as a senior has served as a bounce-back campaign of sorts. He entered his junior season at Vanderbilt in 2018 as a preseason All-American, a pro prospect with underlying expectations of an early exit for the Major League Baseball draft at season’s end.

But command issues limited Raby to a 5-5 record and a career-high 3.57 ERA. He decided to return for his senior season at Vanderbilt as part of its largest senior class (five) since 2008. Now the seasoned Raby views his senior season as a benefit to his game.

“Last year there was a little bit of an expectation internally for me to have a good year and be gone,” Raby said. “But I don’t regret it at all. I don’t think I would change a thing. Last year was a big stepping-stone for me and a big learning point … The biggest thing I learned from that is to stay confident.”

This spring, Raby has flipped between the Saturday and Sunday starter for the Commodores but has seemingly found a groove in starting the series finale in SEC play.

“I do think he’s starting to find himself once again,” Corbin said. “When you’re a command pitcher and you don’t have that command, it’s frustrating to understand where it left you or where it went. But I feel like he’s made very nice adjustments with Brownie [pitching coach Scott Brown] in the last couple weeks.”

Vanderbilt Baseball vs. Florida (5/7/15)

Raby and the fourth-ranked Commodores take an eight-game win streak into this weekend’s series at South Carolina, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. CT at Founders Park in Columbia. Vanderbilt has swept two straight SEC series against Alabama and Auburn and leads the SEC East with a 15-6 conference record. As the Dores prepare for the postseason and solid seeding for the SEC Tournament, each series matters more in the coming weeks.

For Raby, a trip to Omaha remains his top priority, not a record that has stood in the Vanderbilt record books for four decades. But he admits becoming the all-time winningest pitcher in Commodore history has a nice ring to it.

“Any of the big-name guys like [David] Price, Sonny [Gray], Kyle Wright, any of those guys could’ve had this record if they were here for four years,” Raby said. “They’re just so good it doesn’t turn out that they come back for their senior years. But it’s really impressive and it’s cool to be on the brink of that.”