Final coaches poll ranks Commodores third as SEC fills top spots

Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 8:54pm

Before the 2011 baseball season began, Vanderbilt was ranked as one of the top five teams in the country.

Five months later, that’s where the Commodores ended up in three national polls.

Vanderbilt finished third in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. The Commodores were behind only Southeastern Conference rivals Florida and South Carolina. The Gamecocks (55-14) held down the top spot after sweeping the Gators (53-19) in the College World Series championship round for their second straight national championship.

In both the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball polls, Vanderbilt (54-12) was ranked fourth. South Carolina, Florida and Virginia rounded out the top three. The Cavaliers (56-12) were the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and reached the CWS semifinals. Both of their losses in Omaha, Neb., were to South Carolina.

Vanderbilt also went 2-2 at the CWS, with both setbacks coming against Florida. The Commodores were 1-5 against Florida this season. They shared the SEC regular-season crown with Florida and South Carolina. Vanderbilt split four games against the Gamecocks, picking up a big win in the SEC Tournament.

"It was unbelievable how you had three teams — 1, 2 and 3 in the national polls — that started out the way they did and finished the way they did,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “That in itself kind of sums up the SEC.”

Belmont received four votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. The Bruins (38-26) made school history, reaching their first NCAA Tournament before losing twice to Vanderbilt.

The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association had not released its final poll as of Thursday night.

• Three more All-Americans: A trio of Commodores tacked on several more All-American accolades. The American Baseball Coaches Association along with Rawlings named Sonny Gray and Jason Esposito first-team All-Americans, while Grayson Garvin was tabbed to the second team.

It was the third All-American selection for Gray (Baseball America, Perfect Game). Vanderbilt’s ace went 12-4 with a 2.43 ERA while throwing a team-best 132 strikeouts. Esposito, who was also named an All-American by Baseball America, hit .340 with nine home runs and a team-best 59 RBIs. Garvin, the SEC Pitcher of the Year, went 13-2 to set the school record for wins. The lefthander also earned All-American honors from Baseball America and Louisville Slugger.

In addition, the ABCA and Rawlings announced its All-South Region team on Thursday. Esposito, Garvin and Gray were selected to the first team while left fielder Tony Kemp and first baseman Aaron Westlake earned second-team honors. Kemp, the SEC Freshman of the Year, hit .329 and scored 58 runs as Vanderbilt’s leadoff hitter. Westlake crushed a team-best 18 home runs, hit .344 and drove in 56 runs.