An old coach used to always hammer the 5 "Ps": Prior planning prevents poor performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a High School football coach/Driver's Ed instructor through the day; it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here's your 5 "Ps" for Auburn's next opponent: Vandy
PRESENTING: The Vanderbilt Commodores. A team that is riding some of its best seasons in school history. After making only 3 regionals from 1947-2003 the 'Dores have exploded; making it to Regionals 5 out of the last 6 years and even garnering the #1 National Seed in 2007 (but got knocked out by Michigan in the Regional Finals). That newfound success has come with an influx of MLB level talent including current Tampa Ray David Price (below) and two of the top prospects in Major League baseball in Pirate farmhand Pedro Alvarez and Atlanta Brave prospect Mike Minor. Last year, Auburn won the Saturday (5-3) and Sunday (11-10) games to take the series before Auburn's eventual tumble. This year, Vandy comes in with a 27-8 (6-6) record and have bounced around the National Rankings all season.
PREVIOUSLY: You can't say that Vandy has shied away from stiff competition. Having faced UCLA, Western Kentucky, and Oklahoma State in non-conference play. That 6-6 record can be a bit deceiving because its bolstered by a sweep of Kentucky. Outside of that, VU has dropped series to South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida. Tough competition to be sure. That's one of the reasons Vandy is so hard to to scout. Yes, they come in at 6-6 in the league. However, it's not like they are feasting on bottom feeders. They are actually eerily similar to Auburn in their schedule. Playing the bottom half of the league to end the season and facing a potential in-or-out series the final weekend (for Auburn it will be against Ole Miss/for VU against Arkansas). The rotation has already been set so we can get a look at who Auburn will be facing on the mound.
SONNY GRAY (4-4/2.44 era) RHP
JACK ARMSTRONG (5-0/3.43) RHP
TAYLOR HILL (3-3/3.51) RHP
Talk about tough losses for the Vandy staff against South Carolina. Gray pitches a complete game and gets a loss and Hill give up 1 ER and loses.
PLAYMAKERS- The stud on the mound is Sonny Gray (above) The 5'11 Sophomore from Smyrna, TN is a workhorse; chewing up innings and leading the SEC in innings pitched. He also ranks 4th in the SEC in Strikeouts but he's also left in games a bit too long as he also has 4 losses on the year. A year, where he's only given up 1 HR. He ranked #16 in The College Baseball Blog's Top 100. :
Gray is one of the hardest throwers in the country with his fastball that can top out at 97 MPH and having a curve that drops off the table at 80-84 MPH. If Gray can find his control during his college career, then he will be one of the best pitchers for the 2011 MLB Draft.
Don't let his size fool you. The kid has nasty stuff and Auburn will trot out their Ace to compete with him:
Vandy has two power bats in Sophomore Aaron Westlake and Jason Esposito who have 10 and 11 HRs respectively. Westlake got high honors from The College Baseball Blog where he came in #46 in the Top 100. Esposito is probably the Dores top overall hitter. Ranking 4th in the SEC in RBIs (40) and 3rd in Doubles. Lastly, Brian Harris is 1st in the SEC in HBP (with 24) and 2nd in Walks, leading to a solid On Base% of .574.
PREVIEW- Vanderbilt doesn't have a ton of superstars. Few if any of the their players rank in the SEC lead. However, as a team. Vandy is towards to top in almost every major offensive and even defensive category:
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Not a ton of power in the Vandy bats. However, the Dores do have a ton of speed and are super aggressive on the bases. Ranking 3rd in Stolen Bases (52) and Steal attempts (69).
The real story is the Vanderbilt pitching staff that ranks 1st in team ERA (2.92), Runs allowed (125), ER allowed (102), HR allowed (14) and 3rd in Opponent Batting Avg (.252) and Batter's Struck Out (291).
Winning at Hawkins field will also be tough, as Vandy has only dropped 3 games at home all season.
I think that the Auburn pitching staff can calm the Vandy bats. Especially the bullpen which has come on stronger and stronger. However, the real key will be can the Auburn's O get cranked enough to disrupt a Vandy staff that is the best in the league. Auburn has shown it can knock the snot out of average and below average pitching but has struggled against the two better staffs in the SEC (Carolina and Bama).
PREDICTION- I'll keep riding this horse still the legs fall off. AUBURN TAKES TWO OF THREE and I'm hoping this is the face you'll see of a lot of Vandy Women on Sunday (below)