Women’s Golf ousted in SEC championship match play

After advancing to match play as the seventh seed in the SEC Championships this past weekend, the Vanderbilt women’s golf team fell to second-ranked Alabama 3-2.

The top eight teams after 54 holes of stroke play advanced to match play in the conference championship’s new format this year.

After the first round of stroke play, Vanderbilt was third in the standings with an eight-over 296. Louise Yu led the team with a two-under 70, and Virginia Green carded a two-over 74.

Abbey Carlson hit a hole-in-one, her first in competition, on the 150-yard second hole.

The second round of stroke play did not go as well for the Commodores, who ended the day with an 18-over 306.  

Yu and Green, the team leaders after the first 18 holes, carded an 80 and 81, respectively. Morgan Baxendale shot an even-par 72, and Carlson bounced back from a first-round 78 to shoot a 3-over 75.

Courtney Zeng shot a 79 in the second round after a first-round 76.

Vanderbilt stormed back in the third round to clinch a spot in match play. Carlson shot an even-par 72, and Baxendale and Yu scored 73s on the day.

After stroke play, Vanderbilt sat at 899, 35 shots over par.

In match play, Vanderbilt faced Alabama, the top-ranked team in the nation.

Alabama’s Kristen Gillman defeated Virginia Green 6&4, which means she was ahead by six holes when there were only four holes left to play.

Louise Yu earned a point for Vanderbilt after winning the last hole to beat Cheyenne Knight 1 up. The match was tight the entire time, and no player was ever up by more than one hole.

Courtney Zeng lost to Lauren Stephenson 5&3. Stephenson is currently the 6th-ranked amateur golfer in the world.

Morgan Baxendale earned Vanderbilt’s second victory with a 2&1 win over Lakareber Abe. Baxendale was behind or tied for the entire front nine, but pulled away over the back nine.

Carlson lost a tough match to Angelica Moresco. Carlson never led, but fought her way back multiple times to cut Moresco’s lead to one or two strokes before Moresco won the seventeenth hole to clinch the win for Alabama.

Vanderbilt is expected to make NCAA regionals when the field is announced on Wednesday. The regionals are May 7-9 at locations all over the country.

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It’s time to invest In Memorial Magic

When any student submits his or her application to Vanderbilt, chances are that bragging rights between their friends about which school has the best sports teams is not high on their list of priorities. When late March rolls around, most students will be concerned with finals, not the Final Four.

While some of Vanderbilt’s other sports, such as Tennis and Bowling, may be making successful campaigns, some of the most fun memories in college can come from cheering on major teams getting national attention. Vanderbilt has never been an athletic powerhouse or even a perennial contender, but the potential of next year’s Men’s Basketball team has sparked great excitement for everyone around campus.

If the university decides to back the program with the financial support it needs, students may someday dream of coming to Vanderbilt not just for the opportunities in the classroom, but also to root for a team that has the chance to cut down the nets at the end of March.

It’s impossible to expect the school to evolve into a powerhouse overnight, but next year provides an incredible chance for Vanderbilt to take a step in the right direction. If the university chooses to invest more strategically, we could reach a point in which Vanderbilt is competing for titles rather than competing in the SportsCenter Not Top 10. The Southeastern Conference lacks any depth in basketball powerhouses, with the Kentucky Wildcats being the only team consistently competing late into March. Additionally, Vanderbilt’s central location in a fun city like Nashville offers great promise in terms of recruiting.

While there will always be conservative spenders who believe that big investments can wait, it’s clear that Commodore Basketball is about to be ready for primetime. While they may have just come off of a tough season, head coach Bryce Drew has brought in a few incoming players who could change everything. For the first time in a long time, Vanderbilt is bringing in more than one High School Senior marked as “Five Stars,” meaning they are the most elite in the nation. Simi Shittu, Darius Garland, and potentially Romeo Langford are all top players in their respective states, and make up three of the top 15 spots on ESPN’s recruiting rankings.

In a sport in which a few key players are all that is needed to make a team great, next season looks very promising. If subsequent recruiting classes classes see these commits succeed and see the university fund internal improvements and demonstrate that it is dedicated to the team, Vanderbilt Basketball could turn over a new leaf. The Commodores are finally being presented with a real chance to be a national success, and the university needs to do its part and invest in a winning team.

Another factor pointing to Vanderbilt’s potential success on the court is how similar it is to other successful basketball programs. Villanova, who just dominated Michigan in the most recent NCAA Basketball championship game, has just under 7,000 students. Schools even smaller than Vanderbilt, such as Butler and Xavier, also are consistently competitors. Furthermore, while it is often a struggle for especially academically rigorous universities to pull in recruits, schools like Duke show that this is hardly an obstacle for the nation’s top basketball stars.

Other schools are taking this initiative with even less potential for success. For example, Northwestern University just underwent a total renovation of their arena after making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 2017. The only difference between Vanderbilt and these schools: they’re willing to spend the money.

On a larger scale, American interest in basketball is rising at an incredible rate. As parents worry about the lasting effects of concussions on their children, youth football is fading slowly as the basketball fan base grows and grows. The gameday experience of college basketball is unparalleled by any other, and Vanderbilt’s famous “Memorial Magic” is especially electrifying. That being said, any sports fan in Memorial Gym immediately feels the antiquity of their surroundings, and the arena desperately needs new seats, an updated concourse and modern  suites that recruits are taken to as a showcase of the school’s basketball prowess.

If even a fraction of the financial attention Vanderbilt constantly gives to its academic institutions and housing facilities was redirected to this project, these amenities could make fans feel less like they are at a high school gym built in the 1980s and still hold on to the historic atmosphere that makes Memorial Gym such a great place to watch basketball. Instead of having the program’s official website boast about how old its facilities are (even putting itself on a “Top 25” list that is downright embarrassing), Vanderbilt needs to put the money in so that someday that website can boast a Final Four berth, or even a championship.

The best part about investing in new amenities for our basketball program is the huge scope of its potential effects. Not only will the Men’s Basketball players and prospective recruits be ecstatic, these same improvements will be enjoyed by the Women’s Basketball team. The same resources dedicated to making the Men’s Basketball program would help make the Women’s program a championship contender under coach Stephanie White.

Most importantly, Vanderbilt is constantly promoting its plans to renovate the university under the name “FutureVU,” all with the goal of creating a deeper sense of community on campus. What better way to do that than to give students, faculty, and alumni the rallying point of a basketball team that could make runs to the Final Four?

It’s time for Vanderbilt to put its money where its mouth is.

After all, if the choice is between just one more opulent Yale-like dormitory guaranteeing 22-year-olds still have to live on campus and a championship-level basketball team, I think most of us know what we would choose.

Bryan Hollis is a first-year in the College of Arts and Science. He can be reached at 

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Vanderbilt getting player looking for fresh start in Matthew Moyer

On Thursday, former Syracuse forward Matthew Moyer announced he is transferring to Vanderbilt.

Moyer, who just finished his redshirt freshman season, will have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but will have two years of eligibility at Vanderbilt. He averaged 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 35 games for the Orange last season.

Despite those low numbers, Moyer could have the chance at a fresh start with the Commodores. His potential seems to be beyond his stat lines. Sam Rubinoff, Syracuse Basketball play-by-play broadcaster for WAER radio, said he saw a lot of potential in Moyer this past season.

“I was on the call for the Syracuse game at MSG this year against Uconn,” Rubinoff told The Vanderbilt Hustler. “In the first half Moyer flew out of no where on the baseline and threw down at put back dunk off a missed three. He finished that game with 12 pts and 8 rebounds. In that game he showed what a talented and athletic player he is and there were flashes throughout the season.”

After that, things began to fall apart for Moyer. He sprained his ankle against Boston College on January 24 and missed a game. When he came back, he just didn’t have the same touch. Moyer eventually lost his spot in the starting lineup.

That might have weighed on him mentally.

“After that, his confidence was gone and he turned into a black hole with the basketball,” Rubinoff said. “It seemed as almost if he knew he was on the way out of the program and he was just out there trying to show off what he could do.”

It’s unclear what type of role he will play at Vanderbilt, especially because the 2019-20 roster will largely be determined by how many of their 2018 recruits stay past their freshman year. Given his size, and Vanderbilt’s considerable lack of size this past season, Moyer will likely be competing with Yanni Wetzell, Matt Ryan and possibly Simi Shittu for playing time at the power forward position. However, his 6’7” frame could make him a good candidate to play the small forward position as both Wetzell and Ryan are both 6’10”.

However, it will likely all come down to attitude, something head coach Bryce Drew has always stressed in his players.

“My overall take is the mindset that he brings to every game,” Rubinoff said. “You know which Matt Moyer you have at the under 16 timeout. He’s either high flying and ready to play or just going through the motions without much confidence.”

With Moyer’s commitment, Vanderbilt now has just one scholarship spot left for the 2018-19 season. Coveted five-star recruit Romeo Langford could take that spot when he announces his decision on April 30. Vanderbilt will also host Illinois graduate transfer forward Michael Finke for a visit, per CBS Sports insider Jon Rothstein.

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Women’s Tennis wins second-straight SEC Tournament title

Just a week after clinching the SEC regular season title, the No. 2 Vanderbilt Women’s Tennis team rolled straight into Knoxville and won the 2018 SEC Tournament with a 4-0 clean sweep of the No. 9 Florida Gators on Sunday.

With the win, the Commodores claimed both SEC titles for the second year in a row. It’s also their third tournament win in four years.

Vanderbilt dominated from the get-go, claiming the doubles point with 6-1 wins by both Christina Rosca/Amanda Meyer and by the powerhouse duo of Astra Sharma and Fernanda Contreras. It was just the second time since March 25 that the Sharma/Contreras dynamic duo had been paired together. The 22nd-ranked pair had just come off a dominant 6-0 win over a top-10 Ole Miss pairing in the semifinal.

In singles play, Vanderbilt made some quick work of the Gators. While top singles player Sharma had all she could handle against Florida’s Anna Danilina, her teammates were helping to take care of business. Meyer got off the court first with a blitzing 6-1, 6-2 win over Victoria Emma in the No. 4 match.

After having her contentious first-set tiebreaker cut short by Vanderbilt’s clinch in Saturday’s semifinal, Summer Dvorak was fired up and looking to dominate. She came out with a head of steam and dismantled Florida’s Katie Kubicz 6-2, 6-1 on the sixth court.

With a 3-0 edge and just one more match needed to clinch the title, Vanderbilt’s ace-in-the-hole in Contreras took over. On the second singles court, Contreras put together her second straight-set performance of the weekend and beat Florida’s Josie Kuhlman 6-2, 6-1 to clinch Vanderbilt’s second consecutive SEC tournament championship.

At the clinch, Sharma was locked in a tight battle with Danilina in the second set. This was Vanderbilt’s first clean sweep of the tournament, having beaten Texas A&M and Ole Miss by scores of 4-1 to advance to the Final. Now, Vanderbilt will move on to the NCAA tournament for the 24th consecutive season under head coach Geoff Macdonald. They will be seeking their second NCAA title in program history, having made the semifinals of the tournament in each of the last two seasons.

The NCAA regionals begin on May 11 with the championship rounds starting on May 17.

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Women’s Golf using momentum from Brickyard going into SEC Championships

The SEC Women’s Golf Championships begins this Wednesday in Birmingham, and the Commodores have some crucial momentum after winning the Brickyard Collegiate last week.

“I think anytime you’ve got momentum on your side, it just gives you a chance to go and play really well,” said coach Greg Allen.

Vanderbilt, which is ranked No. 25 in nation, took home both team and individual honors, as freshman Morgan Baxendale placed first out of 78 golfers in the field. Baxendale shot a 3-under 213 over three rounds and won SEC Freshman of the Week honors for her performance.

“That girl doesn’t slow down, doesn’t stop,” said Allen of Baxendale. “And she’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around in my 20 years of coaching.”

Sophomore Abbey Carlson and freshman Louise Yu tied for fourth place at 3-over 219.

Even with an impressive showing at the Brickyard, Allen thinks this team still has room to get better and reach their potential.

Carlson leads the team with a stroke average of 73.04 and Baxendale is close behind with an average of 73.33. Louise Yu’s average of 73.52 and Courtney Zeng’s 73.54 average are also remarkable.

The sophomore has improved the most in the past year, taking almost a stroke and a half off her average.

“Her ball striking is unbelievable,” Allen said of Carlson. “But I would say the biggest thing for Abbey is that her chipping has improved.”

The SEC Championships have a different format this year. In addition to the traditional 54 holes of stroke play, the conference championship will now feature a second round in which the top eight teams from stroke play compete in match play for up to three additional rounds.

Allen said, “I’m excited about the possibility of match play. It mirrors the national championship now, and it mirrors what the guys do.”

While the team has not played in match play in any tournaments this season, Allen emphasized that they play matches in practice, and match play is very common on the summer amateur tours.

Greystone Golf and Country Club hosts the tournament on its Legacy course.

Carlson, who played the course at last year’s SEC Championships, said, “it’s a course that all around tests your game, but you’re rewarded for good shots.”

The competition will be tough, as Arkansas and Alabama are both top-five teams and South Carolina, Florida, and Auburn are also fellow top-25 teams.

This team’s chemistry could play a factor in keeping the Commodores loose in a competitive and pressure-packed tournament.

“This is probably one of the best teams I’ve had in terms of chemistry in a really long time,” said Allen, who has coached 11 seasons at Vanderbilt after leading Arizona’s squad for seven years.

Carlson said, “Our team just all around gels really well. Last tournament, we all got ice cream after a round and just sat and talked in the van for 20 minutes.”

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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Joe Biden, Encore, baseball & more

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Vanderbilt Bowling wins second NCAA title in typical Vanderbilt fashion

When John Williamson helped found the Vanderbilt Bowling team in 2004, a moment like Saturday’s NCAA Championship match was something that only existed in his head.

He was an assistant on Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin’s staff before he was tapped to run the startup program. Within three years, he had already made school history by winning the first-ever NCAA title for Vanderbilt in 2007.

It took 11 long years of near-misses and heartbreak, but Williamson and his team reached the pinnacle again when they won the second NCAA title in program history and fourth title in school history on Saturday in a thrilling seven-game victory over McKendree.

“Being a young program that hadn’t done anything, I didn’t necessarily think that we would be the first,” Williamson said after throwing out the first pitch at Vanderbilt Baseball’s game on Sunday afternoon. “But, we sort of struck gold in 2007 and at that time, I thought that they were easy to win because it was only our third year. It turned out that it wasn’t that easy. We’ve had some chances to win it, but it took 11 to get the second one. I’m hoping it won’t take 11 to get the third.”

Photo via Vanderbilt Athletics

This year’s championship team took after the first one in many regards, primarily in its team chemistry. According to Williamson, fielding a team as tightly-knit as this year’s squad was hard to find. The 2017-18 bowlers did not have the expectations that past teams have had, but they had the bond of champions that Williamson had only previously seen in his 2007 champions.

“We haven’t had the best season during the regular season, but I think this is probably the most fun I’ve had as an entire group,” said junior Kristin Quah. “We all just really got along as a team and I think that really helped.”

An elite-level bond wasn’t the only stereotypically Vanderbilt thing about this squad. Their road to the trophy was typical of a Commodore team in its convoluted nature. After cruising through the first two rounds of the tournament, Vanderbilt had to face Sam Houston State for the second time. In the double elimination format, the Bearkats won their Friday night match to force a decisive match on Saturday morning for a shot at the title.

Photo via Vanderbilt Athletics

With their backs against the wall, the Commodores never stopped fighting and won both the traditional match to force a decisive “Baker match” game to advance to the championship game later that day. It was the adversity of the moment that brought the Commodores together.

“I think, after the morning match, we had such a great match against Sam Houston in the Baker game that it actually helped our evening match,” Quah said. “We played fantastic, probably the best we played all season in that five-game Baker match against Sam Houston. It helped us settle down in a way. It could have been a blessing in disguise that we had to play that morning. I haven’t felt that great as a team all year.”

Of course, the road wouldn’t get easier in the traditional best-of-seven final. Vanderbilt found themselves down 3-2, but managed to claw their way back and force a seventh game thanks to a massive 10th-frame from Maria Bulanova. Game seven was all Commodores, as they took the final game 220-191 to clinch the championship.

It was typical Vanderbilt: making it as hard as possible, but still pulling through as a cohesive, hard-nosed team.

“It’s kind of funny because we were joking about it that ‘Oh yeah, we’re Vanderbilt, of course we’re going to take it to seven,’” Quah said. “We seem to always do that. We’re always going to extend it as far as possible before we actually do something. I think it’s just a testament to how we will always push back. People can show their fight but we’re always going to try and give more.”

Photo via Vanderbilt Athletics

The road to the top was typical of a Vanderbilt team, and so was the team’s attitude. Commodore teams can never rest on their laurels. It always comes down to a mentality, and that’s exactly what the Commodores had: a winning attitude.

It was that attitude that pushed someone like Bulanova to bowl perfectly in the 10th frame to win Game Six of the championship matchby three points. It was that attitude that pushed them to win two huge matches on Saturday morning to push them into the title game.

It’s the same attitude that has made Vanderbilt Bowling a premier program in the country.

“I give them all the credit in the world because the girls found something in themselves that just allowed them to believe,” Williamson said. “We have some messages and themes and things like that that we try to instill and give them sort of a roadmap on how we think to get to where we wanted to go, but when it’s all said and done, they’re driving the car. I’m so happy for them because they’ve put in a lot of work. They’ve sacrificed a lot and now they can reap some of the rewards.”

Now, Vanderbilt looks to the future with hope and confidence. Winning is only fun if you do it a lot, and Williamson thinks this title can have long-lasting effects.

“Every opportunity for our program to bowl for a national title helps our team three, four, five, six, even 10 years later because the little girls that are watching it that are bowling see Vanderbilt on TV,” Williamson said. “That just helps us continue to stay sort of in the forefront in the conscious of the youth bowling world and that’s where we want to be.”

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Commodores reach into bag of tricks to upset Rebels

When the desire to win is strong, baseball players will do whatever it takes to see a “W” next to their name.

For the Vanderbilt Commodores, “whatever it takes” includes some trickery and some Sandlot-style strategy.

In the fifth inning of Vanderbilt’s second seven-inning game of a doubleheader against the Ole Miss Rebels, Ole Miss’ Nick Fortes doubled to score two runs and tie the game for the Rebels. The Commodores were set to face the next batter with two runners in scoring position and no one out.

That’s when Vanderbilt took after its namesake and hustled the Rebels.

After receiving the cutoff throw from the outfield, third baseman Austin Martin gave first baseman Julian Infante a look that only Infante could recognize.

The trick was on. With pitcher Reid Schaller pulled off the mound next to Infante, Martin quickly tagged the baserunner at third base when he briefly stepped off the bag.

Vanderbilt had executed the hidden ball trick.

The Rebels, having been successfully swindled out of a baserunner, would not threaten for the rest of the inning. However, they took the lead in the next inning, and it took a three-run double from catcher Ty Duvall to give the Commodores an 8-7 win to seal a huge series win over a top-five team.

Whether it’s a hidden ball trick or just a clutch hit, the attitude from the Commodores is the same: never say die.

“This group is really tough,” Duvall said. “We work extremely hard and I feel we’re as prepared as anyone that steps on the field. I try to remind the guys of that. No one does what we do, no one works as hard as we do. When you get out there, just do your thing because you’re more ready than anyone.”

That fifth inning was one of many instances on Sunday in which the game, and the series, could have gotten away from the Commodores. In the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, the Commodores were down to their final outs multiple times. In the seventh inning, Martin hit a two-out infield single off the glove of the second baseman that plated the tying run. In the first extra inning that followed, they were down 7-6 when Ethan Paul launched a towering solo shot to tie it. Then, with the bases loaded, an Ole Miss wild pitch brought the winning run across.

Vanderbilt caught breaks. But the age-old idiom remains true: you have to be good to be lucky.

“They outhit us both games I think,” coach Tim Corbin said. “In some ways, you have to, and the hits have to be timely. Really, that’s what it boils down to. You get a timely hit, the two home runs were certainly timely and then Duvall’s hit was timely with the bases loaded and that’s really what you need at the end of the day is just to come up and get big hits and we did. That was great to see.”

The difference between any other team in the country and a Corbin-coached team is effort. Vanderbilt may not win every game, but they will give 110% in each and every one. There has never been a single Commodore that has quit on a game. If they have, it was the last time they were on the field in a Vanderbilt uniform.

However, that doesn’t mean that Vanderbilt can dominate any game. They can win ugly, and in the case of the 2018 Commodores, they have mastered the art of the ugly win. It’s why they’re sitting in the Top 25 with two straight SEC series wins under their belt.

“We’re not always pretty, we’re not always the most cosmetic team in college baseball, but at the same time, you just wanted to see that,” Corbin said. “You wanted to see the passion, grit and the ability to take a punch and then come back. There were a lot of tough moments in the first game, a lot of tough moments in that second game too. But, they withstood the punches and they got back on their feet and answered the bell.”

After an 11-3 beatdown at the hands of the Rebels on Friday night, some might have counted out the Commodores in the series against their toughest opponent since facing the top-ranked Florida Gators. With two shortened games on the schedule on Sunday thanks to poor weather on Saturday, Vanderbilt had plenty of time to put Friday behind them and just believe in themselves.

The Rebels came out hard in both games and gave the Commodores everything they had. But for every punch Ole Miss gave, Vanderbilt hit back twice as hard. Moving forward, that attitude will come in handy as the games get more important.

“This was a tough series against a tough team,” Martin said. “The way that we were able to bounce back after every inning. They just kept coming at us and I was really proud of the team just being able to come back and get these two wins today.”

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Vanderbilt defeats Ole Miss 8-7 in rubber match

No. 15 Vanderbilt defeated fifth-ranked Ole Miss 8-7 in the second, seven-inning game of a Sunday doubleheader. With a passionate crowd braving the cold to cheer on the Commodores, the squad gutted out their second win of the day in another back-and-forth contest.

“Every time we were down, we never felt like we were out,” said catcher Ty Duvall, the breakout star of the game.

Ole Miss scored an early run off Vanderbilt starter Mason Hickman. Grae Kessinger walked before Ryan Olenek hit a double to left field. Thomas Dillard grounded out to bring Kessinger home and give the Rebels a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Ole Miss right hander James McArthur made quick work of the Vanderbilt offense in the bottom of the first.

Starting with the second out in the bottom of the first inning, when Alonzo Jones struck out swinging, eight straight at bats between both teams ended in strikeouts, six of those looking. The game figured to be a pitcher’s duel until Vanderbilt charged back in the bottom of the third inning.

Stephen Scott was hit by a pitch from McArthur, and Ty Duvall hit a triple to right field to score him. Julian Infante came to bat next. Infante sent a sacrifice fly all the way to the warning track in right center field to score Duvall and give the Commodores a 2-1 lead.

Duval made his first SEC start of the year and delivered four timely RBIs. Duval was unfazed by the pressure of conference play. He said, “when the time came, I knew I was ready because of all the time and effort I put in.”

Coach Corbin said of Duvall, “even in limited time last year, he always put good at-bats together.”

In the top of the fourth, Ole Miss’ Nick Fortes smashed a double over Alonzo Jones’ head in center field, but Hickman retired the next three batters.

Pat DeMarco led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a powerful home run that cleared the left field wall and hit Memorial Gym. Philip Clarke walked, and Stephen Scott homered to right to stretch the lead to 5-1.

Scott already has five homers in just 29 games this year, and he only had two all of last year when he played nine more games.

Will Ethridge relieved McArthur, who ended the day with five earned runs allowed in 3.1 innings of work.

In the top of the fifth inning, Ole Miss came out swinging. The first six batters reached base.

Tyler Keenan led off the frame with a home run to left center. Three straight singles loaded the bases for Ryan Olenek, who singled to bring in a run.

Mason Hickman was relieved by Reid Schaller. Hickman gave up five runs and seven hits in four innings.

Nick Fortes doubled to score two runs and advance Olenek to third. The RBI double tied the game up at 5-5.

Then, Austin Martin pulled off the “hidden ball trick” on Olenek and tagged him out at third. Martin never threw the ball back to Reid Schaller, but instead Martin kept it in his glove. When Olenek started to take a lead off of third base, Martin tagged him out.

“It was just a gut feeling. I’ve never done that in my life,” Martin said of his trick. He credited Julian Infante with helping him sell the ruse by heading to the mound to talk to Schaller.

Schaller was then replaced by freshman Hugh Fisher, who got the last two outs of the frame.

Ethridge responded by striking out the side in the bottom of the fifth, the second inning of the game in which all three Commodore batters struck out. McArthur also struck out the side in the second inning.

The Rebels took a 7-5 lead in the top of the sixth. Pinch hitter Cooper Johnson hit a single past a diving Ethan Paul to drive in Will Golsan, who led off the inning with a single. Kessinger hit a single to left field with runners on the corners to score Tyler Keenan. Earlier, Keenan had walked, then reached third on Johnson’s single.

Paul, Kaiser, and Infante teamed up to turn a double play and end the threat.

DeMarco and Clarke both singled to the left side of the field to start the bottom of the sixth inning. Connor Kaiser bunted to advance them into scoring position. Stephen Scott walked to load the bases with one out for Ty Duvall.

Duvall hit a liner along the right field line that fell fair by just a few inches. His one-out double cleared the bases to help the Commodores retake the lead 8-7.

Lefthander Jackson Gillis entered the game in position to earn the save.

Austin Martin dropped the ball as he was about to make a throw to first base, and this error allows Nick Fortes to reach base. Fortes stole second base a few pitches later.

Fortes was caught stealing third for the second out of the inning. Cole Zabowski struck out looking at Gillis’ masterful curveball to end the game.

Vanderbilt hosts Evansville on Tuesday at 6:30 PM.

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Commodores win first game of Ole Miss doubleheader in exciting, walk-off fashion

In the first game of today’s doubleheader at Hawkins Field, the 15th ranked Commodores sent Patrick Raby to the mound to take on on the 5th ranked Rebels of Ole Miss. With a strong overcast throughout this matchup, fans were just hoping they would get to see both games before the rain came down.

The Commodores took the field with two straight opportunities to redeem themselves, after losing to Ole Miss on Friday, 11-3.

The first inning may not have started the way Coach Corbin and the Commodores had hoped, as Patrick Raby opened with back-to-back full count walks. The Rebels were able to run up his pitch count, but after a quick (and early) mound visit from Corbin, Raby recollected. A quick fly out to center and a fantastic job by Raby himself covering first on the proceeding double play ended the first inning without any damage.

Raby seamlessly settled into a groove with a one-two-three inning in the second. That said, the Commodores couldn’t make any noise behind the plate, giving Raby very little room to work with.

Through just two innings, Vanderbilt’s Patrick Raby and Ole Miss’ Brady Feigl had quickly declared this game a pitching duel.

Players, fans, and spectators began to wonder one thing: which pitcher would make the first mistake?

In the bottom of the third inning, the Commodores finally showed up, but not for long. After Julian Infante broke up the mutual no-hitter with a double to deep left, Vanderbilt showed little plate discipline. Davis and Martin made it a lot easier for the Rebels, who had little to worry about after the two grounded out on the first pitch they saw.

It took nearly four frames for either team to break this game open. Luckily, after Paul was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a groundout, Philip Clarke lined a double down the first base line to score a run.

The key to Clarke driving in a run? Precisely what the Commodores lacked the inning before: Baseball IQ.

Not only did Clarke have the plate discipline to wait for his pitch (the RBI double came on the fifth pitch of the at-bat), but he continued to flaunt his intelligence on the bases. He reached third base on a Demarco ground out, but then a bizarre series of events took place: Connor Kaiser appeared to have grounded out to end the inning, but a second or two after the throw reached first base, the umpire called Kaiser safe. From his angle, the first baseman’s foot came off the bag, and of course, Clarke never stopped running. In fact, he didn’t even pick his head up. By the time Ole Miss realized, they sprinted back to the field (many had began walking towards the dugout after the throw to first), but Clarke had already scored the Commodores second run.

In the top of the fifth, Raby let up his first two hits of the game–a single then a double–allowing Ole Miss to tack on their first run. Once again, Raby showed his maturity, as he remained unfazed. He proceeded to strike out a batter and force the second to groundout, getting out of the inning with very little damage.

Coach Corbin decided that the one run was not enough to warrant pulling Raby from the game, so he continued to ride his workhorse into the sixth.

The result? Raby may have retired the side in just four batters, but of course, the second of those four knocked a solo home run to left center.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Vanderbilt sought to take the lead once again and make amends for Ole Miss’ game-tying home run.

The Commodores quickly loaded runners to first and second with one out, forcing Ole Miss to pull their starting pitcher, Brady Feigl.

The reliever, Parker Caracci, struck out the first batter before quickly finding himself in trouble.

The two words that will haunt Ole Miss in the coming days: Philip Clarke.

With two outs and runners on first and second, Clarke only needed to see three pitches this time around. He knocked a double into deep left field, driving in two more runs and starting a rally. The next batter, Connor Kaiser, drove in Clarke with a base hit up the middle.

Heading into the seventh, Corbin called in Zach King to relieve Patrick Raby, who let up three hits and two runs in six innings pitched. At this point, the Commodores held a 5-2 lead, their largest lead of the day.

Safe to say, King did not have the performance Corbin had expected. He quickly left the game, forcing freshman Tyler Brown to dig himself out of a bases loaded, no-out mess.

The result?

Brown beamed the first batter he faced, forcing in a run. The next batter bounced one to Julian Infante at first, who decided to go for the safer force-out at first, allowing yet another run to score. At this point, Vanderbilt led by just one, with Ole Miss runners on first and second and only one out. Vanderbilt fans expressed their concern with the decision; Infante appeared to have enough time to get the runner at home, but still decided to go for just one at first.

All it took was a deep sac fly and an infield hit for Ole Miss to score two more, taking the lead 6-5.

After Infante made a questionable call at first, Kaiser did just the same: with a slow roller to the the third base area, he didn’t communicate well with third baseman Harrison Ray. As the ball rolled closer, their lack of communication forced Kaiser to call of Ray, while Ray seemed to have the closer, faster angle to the ball. Additionally, Kaiser was forced to throw a somewhat off-balance beam to first, which the runner was able to beat out. Ultimately, the miscommunication allowed Ole Miss to take the lead in the top of the seventh.

In accordance with NCAA regulations, today’s game was only seven innings long, as the Commodores were set to play again just 45 minutes after the first game ended.

In the bottom of the seventh, Scott was hit by a pitch and was able to swipe second due to a mishap from the player handling the catcher’s throw. Julian Infante then struck out, bringing pinch hitter Ty Duvall to the plate. Duvall’s sac fly to deep right field brought Martin to the plate, needing a hit to score the game-tying run.

The Commodores caught a lucky break.

Martin hit a weak ground ball to second, and while he may have had the speed to beat out the throw, Ole Miss’ second baseman made an inexcusable mistake. He charged toward the ground ball with his glove a little too high.

The ball went straight past his glove, allowing the game-tying run to score.

Vanderbilt extended this game to the 8th inning (technically an extra-inning due to the doubleheader) tied at 6, only for Brown to quickly give up a double. Jackson Gillis quickly entered the game in relief with a runner on second and no outs.

Ultimately, the Rebels regained the lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning.

Key word: regained. This game was far from over.

Vanderbilt led off the inning with an incredibly clutch solo home run from Ethan Paul, followed by a Pat Demarco base hit. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Vanderbilt had a runner on first with no outs. All they needed was to score once more to win the game.

Ole Miss fans held their breath as their worst nightmare came to the plate once more.

This time, the Rebels handled Philip Clarke, who simply grounded out to move the game winning run to second base. A Connor Kaiser bloop single and an intentional walk on Stephen Scott loaded the bases.

With Ty Duvall at the plate, Vanderbilt caught yet another lucky break. A wild pitch by Ole Miss drove a run home, allowing the Commodores to win the first of the doubleheader, 8-7.

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Vanderbilt Bowling wins second National Championship

Believe it or not, the Predators are not the only team in Nashville fighting to make history in the playoffs.

The Vanderbilt Commodores Women’s Bowling team captured their second national title in team history and fourth in school history with a thrilling come-from-behind win over McKendree University. The Commodores won two straight games, including a decisive game seven, to win the match.

In Vanderbilt’s storied athletic history, just three varsity teams have shared the honor of taking home the most coveted achievement in collegiate sports: a national championship.

Most recently, the 2015 Women’s Tennis Team defeated UCLA to win its program’s one and only championship. Likewise, a year prior, the 2014 Baseball team beat Virginia to join the club. The third and final program, the Vanderbilt Women’s Bowling team, took home Vanderbilt’s first national championship over a decade ago, defeating the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks in 2007.

While the baseball and women’s tennis teams have experienced their fair share of recent success, the women’s bowling team remains at the helm: in just fourteen years as a varsity team, the ‘Dores have appeared in three national championships.

Today, at the Tropicana Lanes in Richmond Heights, Missouri, Vanderbilt made their fourth title appearance, facing the defending champions from McKendree University. Once again, they were posed with the opportunity to make history and become the only Vanderbilt team with two national championships.

Vanderbilt entered the day looking to ride the hot hand of Junior Maria Bulanova. Bulanova, born and raised in Moscow, Russia, is an All-American who propelled the Commodores to the title game with a clutch strike against Sam Houston State.

McKendree entered the day as favorites, but Vanderbilt proved their worth early in this match.

In the first few frames of game one, McKendree struggled. The Bearcats (not to be confused with the Commodores’ last opponent, the “Bearkats” of Sam Houston State) seemed to experience small lapses in focus and Vanderbilt quickly took advantage. It took just 5 frames for Vanderbilt to find themselves ahead of McKendree by a total of 23 pins.

As an underdog in a best of seven series, it was crucial that Vanderbilt won game one. The result was nothing less, as the Commodores finished the first game strong: they ended with four straight strikes in rounds seven, eight, nine, and ten, winning the first game by twenty pins.

The second game got off to an exciting start, as each team began with two strikes. Vanderbilt’s Katie Stark released her ball and appeared to bowl a third, but before the ball knocked over all ten pins, she lost balance. Stark slipped and fell; her hand landed in front of the line, leading to a foul. The crowd had gone silent as if she had been injured, while McKendree proceeded to capitalize with yet another strike.

The Bearcats continued to dominate the second game; after finding their stroke, they dominated. They won by well over thirty pins to knot the series up at one game a piece.

Game three was nothing like the first two, as the score was dead even through the first three frames. The fourth frame was Vanderbilt’s break, but the neck-and-neck competition continued. Ultimately, McKendree spared the tenth frame, forcing Vanderbilt’s Maria Bulanova to spare an impossible three pins just to tie. They didn’t get the outcome they had hoped, and McKendree took game three, leaving the total score at 2-1 in favor of the bearcats.

Vanderbilt dominated the fourth game to tie it up at 2-2, but of course, the nature of this back-and-forth match remained. McKendree blew out the Commodores in the following game, fueled by six straight strikes in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth frames. 

Heading into game six, McKendree was up 3-2. They needed just one more game to win the National Championship. Did anyone really expect the Commodores to go down without a fight?

Today, we learned that the Commodores bowling team has that clutch gene the Predators could’ve used in the Stanley Cup Finals last year. They gave McKendree their best effort and was able to send this to game seven with a tight win in the sixth game.

Now, two of the most exciting words to a sports fan: game seven. These words may invoke pressure within most athletes, making them increasingly nervous, but the Commodores remained unfazed. Her foul may have began the downwards trajectory for Vanderbilt early on, but Stark managed to tally her tenth strike of the day and propelled a huge rally for the Commodores. Everything seemed to go right for them in game seven, as they strung together five straight strikes and proceeded to win the national championship.

Today, the Commodores bowling team accomplished something no Vanderbilt team has done before. After being put in a due-or-die situation in game six, they managed to avoid elimination, winning two straight games. They beat the Bearkats, then the Bearcats, to secure their second national championship, the only program on campus to do so.

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Men’s Golf riding high going into Mason Rudolph Championship

After winning two major tournaments and several individual honors, the Vanderbilt Men’s Golf team comes home this weekend to play the Mason Rudolph Championship at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin in what could become a triumph parade of sorts in their last regular season outing.

As of the publication of this article, Vanderbilt Men’s golf ranks 4th in the nation according to the NCAA, only behind Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma St. With the exception of California, it’s worth noting that all of the schools in the top 10 are in the Southeast because Vanderbilt has faced most of them already this season.

Whether you can’t make the drive out to Franklin this weekend or simply want more golf, fear not: Vanderbilt is likely to get a nearby Regional location during the D1 Men’s Golf Selection Show (May 2nd, 5:30 PM on the Golf Channel.) But until then, here’s a quick recap of the season so far and a primer of what to watch this weekend.

“The Alligator Bit My Hand Off!”

The Spring season started out with some off-course excitement when a committee of professionals associated with college golf named Will Gordon, Theo Humphrey, and Patrick Martin to the Ben Hogan Award Watch List, the first step in a process that evaluates a player’s performance from June-May after their success in the fall season. (The list of ten semifinalists will be announced on April 11.)

Individual honors aside, Vanderbilt had work to do as a team going in the SunTrust Gator Invitational in Gainesville, Florida. After jumping to the lead on the first day of competition, the Commodores held on to a -18 team victory, which was 8 strokes better than second-place Florida, the tournament host. Gordon and John Augustein tied for fourth, with Humphrey finishing 8th overall—suprising, considering that Humphrey is the consensus star of the Vanderbilt squad this year, but still not far behind.

Spring Breakers

Like most spring breakers who visit the Mexican seaside resort town, the Vanderbilt Men’s Golf team hoped that the losses that happened in Cabo would stay in Cabo.

To be fair, the Querencia Cabo Intercollegiate tournament was practically an early season simulation for later rounds of the NCAA Tournament with all the top programs in attendance. In the proud Vanderbilt tradition of playing difficult non-conference games early in the season (seriously, compare the schedules of Baseball, Golf, and both Men’s and Women’s Basketball and you’ll see it), the Commodores were southbound for a real test. Vanderbilt finished 11th as a team after the first day of competition with Humphrey tied for third place. They were still 11th after the following day, though Humphrey moved up to second place but still trailed the leaders by three shots.

Humphrey would finish third, but the Vanderbilt team would improve their own fortunes to place eigth in a tournament that went down to the wire between Cal Berkeley and Oklahoma St. with the Cowboys winning it. Cooper Sears, the redshirt freshman playing in the contested sixth slot, wavered with the high scores of 80 and 81 over the first two days, respectively, but rallied on Sunday to post a 76. Gordon and Augustein both contributed scores of 69 in the final round, which was critical in the Commodores’ rally.

Though echoing the team’s disappointment, Limbaugh said he was impressed by the team’s maturity when it came to making up for lost ground. He also memorably said in an interview with “We have learned that our good is pretty good and our average has not been good enough. The biggest challenge for any team is to continue to own who they are and their results.”

(No More) Statesboro Blues

After Cabo, the Commodores would fly northward to the Forrest Heights CC in Statesboro, GA for the Schenkle Invitational. Vanderbilt finished third in the 49-year-old tournament last season, but forecasts were optimistic for an even more favorable finish given the Vanderbilt squad was without their top player last year, All-American Matthias Schwab, who was off winning awards at the Palmer Cup in England at the time. Coach Limbaugh said outright the Statesboro tournament was a team favorite when he said, “We love this event because of how the community wraps their arms around us and makes it so special for all of us.”

That mutual affinity shined ever so brightly that weekend for the “golden golfers.” Vanderbilt held a commanding nine-shot team lead over second-place Kentucky after the first round of play. Vanderbilt clearly fed off of the individual lead of Humphrey. Surprisingly, the senior, whose chipping is normally the cornerstone of his game, struggled from 90 feet-and-in throughout the tournament. Ultimately, he was able to retain his composure enough to hold on to a sweet score of 66.

Not much changed during the second and final round of play that Sunday, as the Commodores cruised to victory as a team with an eight-shot, 29-under par victory over tournament hosts Georgia Southern.

Freshman Harrison Ott, who is the Commodore’s sixth man (a position that competes individually and does not contribute to the team score) at the moment, shot a respectable 75 on the final day after struggling on Saturday. Vanderbilt’s top three finishers, who all were in the tournament’s top 20, were Augenstein (T-17th, -2), Gordon (T-5, -9) and the individual tournament champion Humphrey with an impressive, -29. The individual race was far closer than Vanderbilt’s team landslide, with Humphrey barely beating out contenders from NC State and Georgia Southern by two strokes. Nevertheless, the senior would be named co-SEC Player of the Week for his performance.

After what seemed to be a concise, critical look at the team’s mid-season makeup in the post-Cabo conference, Coach Limbaugh was unafraid to sing the player’s well-earned praises after Statesboro.

“I am so proud of this group,” Limbaugh said, “and how they responded to the challenge this week. I want the guys to enjoy this because they earned it.”

In the manner of a consummate coach’s coach, Limbaugh soon turned his focus forward, adding “The challenge is for us to continue to have a group mentality so we can have a group identity and I want us to embrace that.”

Identity Follows Mentality.

The phrase doesn’t exactly affix itself to a bumper sticker like Form Follows Function, but it’ll do for the rest of the season. But what does it mean for the golfers? Gordon thinks that every member of this particular squad, even more so than in years past, is called on to contribute consistently good outings.

“Mattias (Schwab) isn’t on the team anymore, but I think this year’s team can still be excellent. Theo’s been great to look up to,” Gordon added.

After helping build up a program, Humphrey was able to look at the matter from the atmospheric perspective of a senior, saying, “Sure, every team is going to be a little different, but I think this team is really similar to the one we had last year, in a positive way.”

On leadership, Humphrey added that, “As a senior, I feel that I have to be more careful about what I say because people are listening or, I should say, I hope they are. Because I know that’s what I wish I had done more of as a freshman—I mean I listened a lot, but coming in I thought I had a lot more figured out than I actually did.”

Limbaugh, who is in his sixth season as Vanderbilt’s head coach after a stint as an assistant at Alabama, unsurprisingly also emphasized this season as the continuation of a longer process.

“If you’re recruiting the right guys, they’re pretty internally motivated,” he said.

Although not necessarily done with intent and certainly biased towards the magnetic poles of amateur golf, the geographical diversity of the Men’s Golf team is fairly representative of Vanderbilt’s student body as a whole. Gordon hails from Davidson, NC, while Humphrey, a Phil Mickleson fan, is from Connecticut (like many Vanderbilt students, he says ‘New York City suburbs’ to save time.)

But getting back to the point, former basketball coach Kevin Stallings was a master recruiter, and yet Vanderbilt struggled to make runs in the NCAA tournament for fifteen years. While Limbaugh will talk about a “day-to-day mentality” like most coaches, it’s evident he actually believes in it.

Take this quote from Limbaugh after Vanderbilt struggled on Friday in Cabo: “Tomorrow is important for us because it affects where we want to go as a team.”

Sports are, or at least should be, about the actions of the players on the field, which can lead to some pretty formulaic press conferences. But sometimes, a quote recorded by a camera can speak volumes about the inner workings of a program playing in front of it, which in the case of the most successful ones, is a carefully cultivated environment.

The quote seems incredibly vague at first glance, and that’s because it is, but there lies the importance. Where the team is going doesn’t refer to the rest of the Cabo weekend, or even the rest of the season, but to this grander, multi-year strategy of achievement –whatever that might mean on a group or individual level—that everyone on the team seems to be articulating in their own words.

The Commodores’ success on the links suggests that Limbaugh doesn’t give himself, or his staff, enough credit when it comes to the value that they add to each day in that “day-to-day” approach, especially when one looks at them in the context of years.

Limbaugh, alongside Vice Chancellor David Williams, has presided over the construction of a new state-of-the-art clubhouse for both the men’s and women’s golf programs, which puts both Vanderbilt and the Legends course on the map of amateur golf. Additionally, Vanderbilt has scored sposnorships from major golf brands like Nike, Bridgestone and PXG, though players are granted a degree of leeway when selecting what goes into their golf bags.

A key piece to the chemistry puzzle came this off-season when Limbaugh named Gator Todd (yes, that might be the best golf name ever) as assistant coach. Todd, who was an Alabama golfer during Limbaugh’s tenure there and coached on the competitive courses of Wisconsin with Marquette University, has been a fine addition to Vanderbilt’s coaching tree for his golf know-how as well as sharing the experience of golfing under Limbaugh. Todd stepped in to fill the position left vacant following Dusty Smith’s departure for the head coaching job at Mississippi State.

Run Run Rudolph

The Mason Rudolph Championship will take place this weekend with the matches lasting all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The tournament, which bears the name of a legendary golf coach who worked with Vanderbilt players from 1992-2011, will take place at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, TN, which is about 30 minutes away from campus if you take the highway.

Though there are storms in the forecast, skies should be clear enough to make for pleasant spring days with temperatures in the low 70s.

“We finished 3rd last year, and won the whole thing my freshman and sophomore years,” Humphrey said, “so it should be a good opportunity for the team to show what we’re truly capable of.”

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