Nashville Super Regional: Anonymous Coaches Break Down Vanderbilt, East Carolina
Coach: Tim Corbin
Postseason history: 10th super regional appearance (fourth straight). Seeking fifth trip to Omaha and second straight.
Postseason route: No. 1 seed in Nashville Regional. Went 3-0, defeating Georgia Tech in regional final.
Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Commodores)
“They’re good. They’re really good. They have a legit 1-2 punch on the mound. I thought Nick Maldonado was legit out of the bullpen. They’ve got good position players. But it starts with Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. That just shortens the bullpen. Not only are they legit but they pitch into the sixth or seventh inning every time. Now you’re talking about covering 13 innings the rest of the weekend. They both pound the strike zone, and they have swing-and-miss stuff. You have to string hits together and that’s hard to do. They have wipeout breaking balls and they have velo. They’re locks to pitch deep into the game, and it shortens everyone else’s role.
“Patrick Reilly—his fastball had some real giddy up. But he hasn’t been great. You’ve got to find a way to get to a game 3. You’re not going to beat both Leiter and Rocker, right? You’ve got to scratch a game out of them and then get to game 3. Reilly, Christian Little, Chris McElvain, those guys are all talented, they’re good, but they’re dudes with four ERAs. They just have some chinks in the armor where the first two don’t have many.
“Enrique Bradfield is one of the most electric freshmen I’ve seen in this league. Forty-six stolen bases, more walks than strikeouts, his on-base percentage is .475 for a guy that is an elite, elite base stealer. When he gets on, we told our pitchers don’t even worry about it, he’s going to get to second base. Don’t pick over there seven times and then throw a meatball because you’re distracted.
“Dominic Keegan is a real threat in the middle of the order. All those other guys are good players. Parker Noland, Jack Bulger, Isaiah Thomas is a talent, he’s a threat. He strikes out too much, but he’s a real threat—12 stolen bases, 13 tanks, he’s hitting .339, you just wish he didn’t strike out so much. Jayson Gonzalez has big power. They have enough. It’s a physical lineup with a lot of strength and they defend it well.
“Tim Corbin is a good coach. If you’re sloppy defending the running game, they’ll run. They all can bunt. They’ve got skill. They’re always multidimensional and well-coached. Everyone can push and drag, you can tell they teach the running game if you’re slow to the plate and they’ve got some other ways to beat you.”
Coach: Cliff Godwin
Postseason history: Sixth super regional appearance (second straight). Seeking first trip to Omaha.
Postseason route: No. 1 seed in Greenville Regional. Went 3-0, defeating Maryland in regional final.
Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Commodores)
“Gavin gives them such an advantage on Friday nights. He’s really difficult to beat. Their bullpen is so good and deep. It’s not like you’re seeing 95 mph, it’s not that kind of bullpen. But they have so many pieces you never feel comfortable. They can match up, whether it’s a sidearm righty or a guy with a slider. You’re not going to see anything above maybe 91 out of the bullpen but by the time you think you’ve got an idea, they’ve got somebody else in the game. They’re super competitive and super experienced. It’s very difficult to get comfortable and score runs late in the game. If a guy doesn’t have good stuff, they get him out of there. There’s not a lot of drop off out there. It’s like seven or eight guys back there and because they mix and match so much, you never get comfortable into a reliever.
“Offensively, Norby and Thomas Francisco are really good players. After that, it’s just tough at-bats. They do a ton of stuff, they make your pitchers work, they fake bunt, slash, safety squeeze, suicide, hit-and-runs. Everybody one through nine is committed to doing what they have to do to move guys over or help the team win. It’s a very good team offensive concept. They don’t chase breaking balls down. They’ll chase up. They don’t strike out a lot, they try to put the ball in play, especially with two strikes. They make it difficult because you’re trying to defend everything. They don’t steal a lot of bases, but you have to defend the hit-and-run and they get first and third, and they’ll try to steal a run doing stuff.
“It’s the experience that helps them offensively. It’s not like a scary offense but if you give them free bases or walk guys … and they’re clutch, they get big hits. They’ll take advantage of everything you give them. You give out a walk, they’re going to kill you for that. Norby is different. He’ll lead off a game with a home run. He did it twice in the tournament. He’s super scary. If you have runners on for Francisco and Norby, you’re in trouble and the bottom of the lineup is going to try to get on, bunt, flip the lineup over and then you’re in trouble. They’re dynamic. They do a bunch of different things. You can’t say, ‘We won’t let them bunt because then they’ll do different stuff.' You’re defending safety squeeze and now they’re hitting a groundball that should be caught.
“Norby has great barrel-to-ball skills and he’s very strong for a little guy. He has hand strength. You feel like you win a pitch, but he fights it off and he’s strong enough to get it over the infield’s heads or his barrel-to-ball skills allow him to hit a groundball and it gets through. When you pitch him right and you feel like you win, he’s still good enough to get a hit out of it. tough.
“After Gavin and (Carson) Whisenhunt, it falls off from a starting standpoint. Jake Kuchmaner has had a bad year, (Tyler) Smith has struggled with command. They’ve tried to bullpen a lot of games to win. They’ll start Garrett Saylor for an inning or two or they’ll go to Cam Colmore early. Matt Bridges, A.J. Wilson, (Garrett) Saylor, they have so many that they can do that. They go to the bullpen as early as they need to. There’s no elite guy at the end of the game for them where you’ve got no chance like the Arkansas guy or whatever, it’s not one of those type of closers. But there’s seven really good college bullpen guys.
“This isn’t the best ECU team that I’ve seen, but they’re probably the best group of winners that they’ve had from a competitive and confidence standpoint. Their offense with Spencer Brickhouse, Alec Burleson and Bryant Packard was way scarier. But one through nine they’re committed and confident and they execute everything.”
Rocker, Leiter Become First Teammates To Win Player, Freshman Of The Year In Same Season
The Vanderbilt duo takes home our two respective awards, with Rocker winning 2021 Player of the Year and Leiter 2021 Freshman of the Year.
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