JOE BIDDLE: Missed it by that much
By Joe Biddle, Sports Columnist
In time, the tears will dry. In time, the pain will go away.
Members of this year’s record-setting Vanderbilt baseball team don’t want to hear it now, but time will heal the emotional wounds of a season that was historic in so many ways, but one that ended short of the mark they had all dreamed of.
All the outdoor winter practices at Hawkins Field. All the training, weightlifting, running, long tosses and time spent in the batting cage are now distant memories.
There is only one team celebrating at the end of a college baseball season. It won’t be Vanderbilt. Coach Tim Corbin had a team that had the balance and roster to make it to Omaha, but Louisville had designs of its own. They swept the first two games of the best-of-three series Super Regional at the Hawk. It was not in the cards for the Commodores.
Louisville played better baseball those two games, winning 5-3 and 2-1. It was close, but Vanderbilt failed to capitalize on chances they had and Louisville slammed the door in Vanderbilt’s face. The first five hitters in the lineup finished 2-for-20 Sunday.
“We were playing uphill all day,” Corbin said. “It felt like a car that had the emergency brake on the whole time.”
Like the players, Corbin was emotional after the final out. The clutch hit they sorely needed never appeared.
“I’ll bounce back, but I question how long I can do stuff like this to be honest,” an emotionally spent Corbin said.
“Emotionally it is tough, because of the kids more than anything else. I just love spending my time around kids.
“When it ends, it just puts… It puts a dagger in my heart.”
Corbin had special feelings for senior Mike Yastrzemski, who left the tying run on third base in the ninth inning as the left-hander went down swinging against southpaw Cody Ege.
“It’s unfortunate because maybe the most unselfish player that I’ve ever been around finished at the plate,” Corbin said. “That was a tough one to watch. That kid’s different. I probably won’t coach too many more like him. I would have loved to see that go in his direction. He deserved better than that.”
They won the SEC regular season in a rout, winning every series. They lost the first game of the SEC Tournament, yet clawed their way back to play LSU for the championship, losing in 11 innings.
The future looks bright as Vanderbilt placed a league-leading three players on the SEC All-Freshman team. Redshirt freshman Zander Wiel accounted for Vandy’s lone run in the final game with a solo home run. Third baseman Xavier Turner is solid at the hot corner and pitcher Carson Fulmer gave up only two hits in 5 1/3 scoreless innings in relief Sunday. They are the future, but for the present, it ended on a sour note.
“I can not believe it’s over,” said junior Tony Kemp, a Centennial High school product. “It’s sad because we play with so many good players. You may sit here and say, ‘Oh, they’re just ballplayers,’ but it’s like a brotherhood in the locker room.”
“You don’t know how hard it is, how many hours we go through. It’s like a job, but it’s not a job for us we because we have fun doing it.
It’s never fun when you lose.
Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: 6/13/2013