For the eighth time in program history, the Vanderbilt baseball team is hosting an NCAA Tournament Regional at Hawkins Field, welcoming Presbyterian, Georgia Tech and Indiana State.
The Commodores, who are the No. 4 overall seed, are appearing in their 15th straight NCAA Tournament — the longest streak in the SEC and second-longest in the country. Vanderbilt is 27-9 all-time at Hawkins Field in the NCAA Tournament, with an 18-5 record in regionals and a 9-4 record in super regionals.
“It’s good for the program,” head coach Tim Corbin said. “The consistency piece has always been a part that we’re all proud of because it does take a tremendous amount of investment and care, and you have to create a lot of energy every year. It just doesn’t carry itself and I think it gets more difficult every year because of the standard of college baseball and the conference that we’re in.”
Georgia Tech (29-23) and Indiana State (30-19) play Friday at noon on ESPN3, while Vanderbilt (40-15) hosts Presbyterian (22-21) — Corbin’s alma mater — on Friday at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network. The losers of both games meet Saturday at noon and the winners face each other Saturday at 6 p.m.
Corbin revived the Presbyterian program and led it through a transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II. He compiled a 106-138 record with three straight South Atlantic Conference playoff appearances from 1991-93. Corbin was named South Atlantic Coach of the Year in 1990.
“Presbyterian is where [I] started,” Corbin said. “Without Presbyterian, there’s no Vanderbilt…there’s no Clemson and so on. We all have a story, and I was fortunate enough to start a program that had been nothing for years. I got an opportunity to build a field and build dugouts with [my] own hands. There’s also tremendous pride in coaching against one of my former players. (Presbyterian head coach) Elton (Pollock) was a tremendous player there. I’m so happy for him.”
While technically the defending national champions, the Commodores have only seven holdovers from the 2019 National Championship team. Kumar Rocker, who is expected to start on Friday followed Jack Leiter in Game 2 on Saturday, is one of those seven, making a name for himself with his 19-strikeout no-hitter against Duke in the super regional and then going 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two starts at the College World Series.
Despite the lack of College World Series experience on the current roster, Corbin said he expects the same championship-level performance from his group this year.
“We don’t talk about a national championship with the group, but we always expect to win because of how they prepare and the amount of time they put into it," Corbin said. "I’m sure a lot of teams feel that way. But we’re very prideful in how we feel and go about business. These guys sacrifice quite a bit. I think we operate quite differently than a lot of teams. We have high expectations for them.”
Each regional field is comprised of four teams playing a double-elimination tournament. All 16 regionals are scheduled to be conducted from June 4-June 7 (if necessary). Super regional hosts won’t be announced until regionals conclude. Should Vanderbilt advance out of its regional, the school stands a good chance of hosting a super regional.
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