The Vanderbilt baseball team got some words of encouragement Tuesday from an unlikely source.
Terry Crisp, the Nashville Predators’ radio and television color analyst, visited VU’s afternoon practice and delivered a spirited pep talk.
The Commodores will leave Nashville on Wednesday for Tempe, Ariz., where they begin NCAA Tournament play Friday in a 4 p.m. game against Oklahoma.
Crisp, who played 11 seasons in the NHL mostly during the 1970s, told stories Tuesday about winning championships and teamwork.
He was invited to practice by Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin. Pete Weber, the Predators’ play-by-play announcer, accompanied Crisp.
TOLD YOU SO: On April 18, Vanderbilt catcher Shea Robin issued a challenge to VU baseball media relations director Thomas Samuel: If Robin’s season batting average was above .300 when the Southeastern Conference Tournament ended, Samuel would have to submit to a head-shaving.
Samuel accepted the challenge, as Robin was batting .262 as the Commodores entered a three-game series against Auburn.
Robin’s hot hitting over the following weeks pushed his batting average to .302 as Vanderbilt was eliminated from the SEC Tournament on Saturday.
Robin toted shears to Tuesday’s practice and shaved Samuel’s head.
Robin was hitting .298 before getting a hit in his final at-bat of the SEC Tournament.
TALL ORDER: Eliminating Arizona State from the Tempe Regional of the NCAA Tournament this week will be a difficult chore for Vanderbilt, Oklahoma or Stony Brook.
The 45-11 Sun Devils, ranked No. 4 nationally by Baseball America,, are 35-3 at home this season. None of the other three teams in the Tempe Regional this week are currently ranked in the top 25.
Nonetheless, Corbin expects his experienced team to be unfazed by the challenge.
“They’re confident,” he said. “They’re older guys and have been around the block. They’re not fearful of anything.”
Corbin and Arizona State coach Pat Murphy are close friends. Corbin’s stepdaughter, Molly Blatt, is part of ASU’s baseball operations staff.
GOLDEN ERA: Vanderbilt will make its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in five years this week. Before 2004, the Commodores had only played in the NCAAs in 1980, 1974 and 1973.
VU is 11-12 all-time in tournament play.
NCAA Baseball Tournament
4 p.m. – Vanderbilt [40-20] vs. Oklahoma [34-24-1]
9 p.m. – Arizona State [45-11] vs. Stony Brook [34-24]
4 p.m. – Loser of Game 1 vs. loser of Game 2 (loser eliminated)
9 p.m. – Winner of Game 1 vs. winner of Game 2
3 p.m. – Winner of Game 3 vs. loser of Game 4
8 p.m. – Winner of Game 5 vs. winner of Game 4
Monday (if necessary)
8 p.m. – Repeat of Game 6
*All times Central