VU vs. MTSU is an unfamiliar pairing for familiar foes

Friday, May 29, 2009 at 1:10am

Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State each have experience in NCAA baseball regional competition. The question, when the teams play 2 p.m. Friday in the opening game of the Louisville Regional, is which one’s experience is more valuable.

VU (34-25) is one of 64 teams competing for the national championship for the fourth straight time. MTSU (32-25) has more extensive experience, with at least three regional appearances in each of the last three decades.

“Shoot, they’ve been to [the] regionals more than Vanderbilt has,” coach Tim Corbin said. “It’s not like we have this damn thing figured out.”

The Blue Raiders have made an NCAA regional 12 times, including four times in five years from 2000-04. They have lost six straight contests since they went 2-2 at the Clemson Regional in 2000, which matched their best performance ever.

The Commodores have made seven regional appearances, including three since MTSU’s most recent NCAA tournament berth. They won the Virginia Regional in 2004 and advanced to the Super Regional, at which they were swept at Texas.

In 2007 they won three times but fell in the ultimate game (4-3 in 10 innings against Michigan) of the only regional they ever hosted.

The programs never have met in postseason, but they have played one another at least twice in each of the last five seasons. Four out of those five times they split the season series.

“I’d rather play somebody I know,” MTSU coach Steve Peterson said. “It’s just easier to prepare. …I don’t like surprises. Tim Corbin is going to play the game the way he always plays it, and we’re going to play the game we always play it. We’re going to give each other the best we have, and that takes away the unknown.”

Afterward, everyone involved might even know who benefited more from their experience.

(All times CDT)

Game 1: 3 Vanderbilt (34-25) vs. 2 Middle Tennessee (43-16), 2 p.m.
Game 2: 4 Indiana (32-25) vs. 1 Louisville (44-15), 6 p.m.
Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 5: Game 4 loser vs. Game 3 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser (if first loss), 6 p.m.