Vanderbilt has enjoyed plenty of recent baseball success against Tennessee. The Commodores see no reason why things should change now.
VU has won 12 of its past 17 games against the Volunteers, including four of five in 2007. The Commodores have twice swept UT in a three-game series since 2003.
As the long-time rivals begin a three-game series tonight in Knoxville, Vanderbilt believes it still has the upper hand.
“If we play our game, I think we’re a much better team than Tennessee,” said Commodore pitcher Mike Minor, who is scheduled to start tonight.
Vanderbilt looked like anything but a world-beater last weekend while losing two of three games at home to Kentucky. VU committed six errors in the series, including four in a Sunday loss, and delivered few clutch hits.
At 31-13, the 17th-ranked Commodores have already lost as many games as they did last season while capturing the Southeastern Conference championship.
VU coach Tim Corbin, however, said his team’s best days are ahead.
“I know my team and what we’re capable of doing,” he said. “The feeling of last weekend doesn’t deter where we’re going to go and what I think we’re about to do. We’re trying to be the best team we can be at the right time of the year.”
Nine regular-season games remain for each SEC team. The top eight, based on winning percentage in league play, will advance to the SEC Tournament May 21-25 in Hoover, Ala. An NCAA Tournament invitation isn’t likely for teams left out of the SEC Tournament.
After traveling to Tennessee this weekend, Vanderbilt plays host to SEC-leading Georgia next weekend before wrapping up regular-season play with a three-game series at Florida May 15-17.
“Our future lies ahead of us,” VU shortstop Ryan Flaherty said. “These are a big three weeks for us.”
Added Corbin: “We’ve got nine games in front of us right now that are very important. The first goal is to get to the SEC Tournament. That’s paramount right now. We’re not looking too far down the road.”
Tennessee is 11-10 in SEC play and 25-20 overall under first-year coach Todd Raleigh, who replaced Rod Delmonico after the 2007 season.
Raleigh coached for eight seasons at Western Carolina before taking over at UT.
“With a new coach, there’s some renewed energy, and I think that’s exactly what they have,” Corbin said. “Knowing Todd, he’s built some toughness into that group.”
GOLD NUGGETS: With 297 career hits, Vanderbilt senior outfielder Dominic de la Osa is five way from becoming the school’s all-time leader. The current record of 283 was set by Karl Nonemaker, who played from 1999-2002. De la Osa also has 60 career doubles, one short of tying the school record. …Vanderbilt has won 30 games this season for the fifth straight year, tying the school record set in 1971-75. …Despite missing 23 games with a hand injury earlier this season, VU star third baseman Pedro Alvarez is batting .392 in SEC play. …Vanderbilt relief pitcher Richie Goodenow, a product of Nashville’s Overton High, has struck out 13 batters in 7 2/3 innings pitched this season.