These are not the best of days for the Vanderbilt baseball team as it prepares for Southeastern Conference Tournament play this week.
A year removed from winning the league championship, the Commodores lost five straight games, including three over the weekend at Florida, to close the regular season.
Picked by many to repeat as SEC champs this year, Vanderbilt instead limps into the conference tournament as the No. 6 seed, perhaps feeling fortunate to even be participating at all in light of its late-season freefall.
Despite leading 7-1, VU dropped a 13-12 decision in 11 innings at Florida on Saturday. The Commodores were swept twice this season by SEC opponents and have lost three of their past four series entering postseason play.
The breezy 2007 season now is a distant memory.
“Last year we kind of sailed through, but this year is a little bit different,” Vanderbilt catcher Shea Robin said.
Pitching, long the staple of VU baseball, was pounded for 26 runs in three games at Florida. The Commodores finished the regular season with a team earned-run average of 4.47. Last year’s mark was 3.86.
In SEC games only, Vanderbilt’s ERA ballooned to 5.37.
The slumping Commodores say they are battered but not defeated, and hope to draw on their recent success in SEC Tournament play when they take on No. 3 seed Florida on Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.
Vanderbilt won the 2007 tournament title by winning an unprecedented five straight games and knocking off Arkansas in the championship game. Two years ago, VU advanced to the title game before losing to Ole Miss.
“The most important thing is just getting into the tournament,” Commodores coach Tim Corbin said. “We think we own that tournament. We think it should have our name on it.”
Added outfielder Dominic de la Osa: “I think we excel under pressure. Our guys, we fight and don’t give up.”
SEC Baseball Tournament
Game 1 — 10 a.m. #7 South Carolina vs. #2 LSU [CSS]
Game 2 — 1 p.m. #6 Vanderbilt vs. #3 Florida [CSS]
Game 3 — 5 p.m. #8 Ole Miss vs. #1 Georgia [CSS]
Game 4 — 8 p.m. #5 Alabama vs. #4 Kentucky [CSS]
Game 5 — 10 a.m. Loser G1 vs. Loser G2 [CSS]
Game 6 — 1 p.m. Loser G3 vs. Loser G4 [CSS]
Game 7 — 5 p.m. Winner G1 vs. Winner G2 [CSS]
Game 8 — 8 p.m. Winner G3 vs. Winner G4 [CSS]
Game 9 — 3 p.m. Winner G5 vs. Loser G7 [FSN]
Game 10 — 6:30 p.m. Winner G6 vs. Loser G8 [FSN]
Game 11 — 10 a.m. Winner G8 vs. Winner G9 [FSN]
Game 12 — 1:30 p.m. Winner G7 vs. Winner G10 [FSN]
Game 13* — 5 p.m. Winner G11 vs. Loser G11 [CSS]
Game 14* — 8 p.m. Winner G12 vs. Loser G12 [CSS]
Game 15* -- 3 p.m. Winner G13 vs. Winner G14 [FSN]
*If both bracket winners are undefeated, there will be no 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. games on Saturday and the championship game Sunday will be Game 13.