Commodores in underdog role this time

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 1:03am

Vanderbilt began its 2008 baseball season on Arizona State’s field.

Now the Commodores will return to the same location this week for their most important games of the season.

VU was placed in the Tempe Regional as a No. 2 seed Monday as NCAA Tournament pairings were announced. Other teams in the regional include No. 1 seed Arizona State, No. 3 seed Oklahoma and No. 4 seed Stony Brook.

Sixteen four-team regionals will be played around the nation beginning Friday. The winners of each will advance to next week’s Super Regional round and a step away from the College World Series.

The Commodores opened their season Feb. 22-24 in the DeMarini Invitational at Winkels Field-Packard Stadium in Tempe, where they defeated Oregon State and Miami of Ohio while losing to the host Sun Devils.

“We don’t have the comforts of home, obviously, but we’ve been there before,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “So that’s good. We’ve got some knowledge and some comfort there.”

The Commodores, 40-20, will take on Oklahoma on Friday at 4 p.m. Arizona State plays Stony Brook in Friday’s other game. Regionals follow a double-elimination format.

Vanderbilt will make its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in five years under Corbin. VU is coming off an 8-7 loss Saturday to Ole Miss in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

A potential matchup with powerful Arizona State, the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, looms for Vanderbilt. The Sun Devils whipped the Commodores 18-6 in February and are considered national contenders.

“The fact that we have to bring our ‘A’ game to the regional to have a chance to win means we’re probably going to step it up a notch, and it’s probably going to be a little more fun,” VU second baseman Alex Feinberg said.

Added Corbin: “"For the most part, it’s a tough draw. But you’ve got to beat the best to beat the best.”

Vanderbilt entered last season’s NCAA Tournament ranked No. 1 nationally and hosted its first-ever regional. The Commodores were upset in the regional final by Michigan.

This time, VU is out of the national rankings and mostly flying under the radar.

“Going into that region, it was almost like, ‘What do you have to prove?’ You’re the No. 1 national seed, you can’t really do anything that no one is expecting,’” Feinberg said.

Can Vanderbilt pull off a Michigan-like upset in the home park of a national heavyweight?

“All we know is that we’re playing at that venue against Oklahoma,” Corbin said. “The other two teams, they’re not really a factor right now, because we don’t know who we’ll play, what we’ll play until the outcome of the Oklahoma game.”

For Vanderbilt, the objective remains unchanged: Get to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., in June for the first time in school history.

“The goal is still Omaha,” shortstop Ryan Flaherty said. “Nothing has changed.”

NCAA Tournament regionals

Miami, Fla.

1 Miami

4 Bethune-Cookman

3 Ole Miss

2 Missouri

Ann Arbor, Mich.

1 Arizona

4 Eastern Michigan

3 Kentucky

2 Michigan

Raleigh, N.C.

1 N.C. State

4 James Madison

3 Charlotte

2 South Carolina

Athens, Ga.

1 Georgia

4 Lipscomb

3 Louisville

2 Georgia Tech

Fullerton, Calif.

1 CS Fullerton

4 Rider

3 Virginia

2 UCLA

Palo Alto, Calif.

1 Stanford

4 UC Davis

3 Arkansas

2 Pepperdine

Stillwater, Okla.

1 Oklahoma State

4 Western Kentucky

3 TCU

2 Wichita State

Tallahassee, Fla.

1 Florida State

4 Bucknell

3 Tulane

2 Florida

Cary, N.C.

1 North Carolina

4 Mt. Saint Mary's

3 Elon

2 UNC Wilmington

Conway, S.C.

1 Coastal Carolina

4 Columbia

3 Alabama

2 East Carolina

Lincoln, Neb.

1 Nebraska

4 Eastern Illinois

3 Oral Roberts

2 UC Irvine

Baton Rouge, La.

1 LSU

4 Texas Southern

3 New Orleans

2 Southern Miss

Houston, Texas

1 Rice

4 Sam Houston State

3 St. John's

2 Texas

College Staton, Texas

1 Texas A&M

4 Ill.-Chicago

3 Houston

2 Dallas Baptist

Long Beach, Calif.

1 Long Beach State

4 Fresno State

3 California

2 San Diego

Tempe, Ariz.

1 Arizona State

4 Stony Brook

3 Oklahoma

2 Vanderbilt

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