Eyes of The Hawk is a Vanderbilt Baseball blog written by VandyRadio Sports Director Max Herz, new for the 2015 season. Max covers the Commodores for VandyRadio, The Vanderbilt Hustler, and the SEC Network. Check in throughout the season for an inside look at the defending National Champions, as we cover the boys of The Hawk with the eyes of a hawk.
“How many times do you get in life to be celebrated as a person? Usually, when it happens, you’re underneath the ground and you don’t get a chance to listen to it.”
Those were the words of Tim Corbin on Tuesday morning, a man eternally capable of putting life and its happenings into proper perspective. He realizes how special this past weekend of baseball was for his team and how magical the 2015 Nashville Regional will appear when looked back upon years from now.
This weekend wasn’t just top-seeded Vanderbilt holding serve by sweeping its Regional. It wasn’t just the Commodores getting revenge on a crosstown rival, completing a comeback with a ninth inning home run, or securing a Super Regional berth with the most lopsided shutout win in NCAA Tournament history.
It was so much more.
Derek Jeter’s 2014 season—his last in MLB before retiring—was celebrated because he had accomplished everything he could as a Major League ballplayer, having conquered that level of baseball in seemingly every way.
It was only fitting that Dansby Swanson’s unforgettable Saturday night was capped off with Jeter’s trademark jump-throw in the hole at short.
Both Swanson and his teammate Carson Fulmer have conquered college baseball. Even with the Super Regionals and the College World Series still ahead, Vanderbilt’s dynamic duo went out with a bang this weekend in their final games at Hawkins Field.
Fulmer threw seven innings while striking out 11 in the Commodores’ first win of the weekend on Friday, a 9-1 triumph over Lipscomb.
The following night, Dansby took control. With the ‘Dores and Indiana knotted at four in the ninth, Swanson drove the first pitch he saw over the left field fence to give Vandy the lead. In the bottom of the frame, Swanson recorded the first out in Jeter-esque fashion to retire Austin Cangelosi and create the most memorable individual performance in college baseball this season with two incredible feats just minutes apart.
On Monday afternoon, Fulmer, Swanson, and the rest of Vanderbilt’s seasoned leaders were rewarded with an opportunity few athletes get to experience: a chance to pause, celebrate, and be celebrated before moving on to the next level.
With Vanderbilt up a mind-numbing 20-0 in the sixth inning of Monday’s Regional Final against Radford in the team’s final home game, Corbin gave each of his draft-eligible leaders the opportunity to be recognized by the Commodore faithful, a Senior Day of sorts rarely seen on the baseball diamond.
Walker Buehler and Rhett Wiseman were lifted to thunderous applause in the bottom of the sixth. Zander Wiel was replaced and embraced after a base hit in the top of the seventh. Swanson’s turn came in the bottom of that inning, as his roommate, best friend, and fellow top prospect Fulmer joined him in the field for one out before the two exited the game together to the loudest ovation yet.
“It’s a special moment and I honestly couldn’t thank Coach for a better person to go off the field with than Carson,” Swanson said. “Coming off the field with Carson and seeing the guys and Coach, I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t tear up. It has been a heck of a ride.”
Philip Pfeifer got his moment in the bottom of the ninth, as the many fans who stuck around for the end of the blowout victory saluted the Commodore leader whose journey has been the most trying.
As the Commodores advance in the NCAA Tournament and its many leaders progress to the professional ranks, the Nashville Regional served as a rare opportunity to honor a great team full of great players before time renders such a celebration impossible. Fans should prepare to look back on this weekend as four days of incredible baseball and emotional moments, savoring every moment, memory, and photograph as this group advances, because we may never see a team quite like this one again.
“That’s the tough part of coaching kids for two or three years,” Corbin said. “It just seems like the years go by way too fast. I’m glad they got the moment because they’re deserving of it. I thought in the back of my mind that if we could create that moment for them, that I’d do my best to do it.”
As always, Coach Corbin did his best, creating a series of moments with the help of his players that will last a lifetime as we look back at the 2015 Nashville Regional, the weekend when a handful of Vanderbilt’s all-time greats put on an unforgettable show at Hawkins Field.
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