Vanderbilt baseball — and Tim Corbin — end regular season with embarrassing display | Estes

Gentry Estes
Nashville Tennessean

As embarrassing as Saturday's regular-season finale was for Vanderbilt baseball, it got a little more so after it ended.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin was well on his way out the door, already near the warning track in left field when reporters made it down to the field to ask him about a 21-10 loss to LSU that capped a woeful weekend and a home sweep. Corbin kept walking.

In the coach's place, Vanderbilt sent a player – right fielder Spencer Jones – to answer for how the Commodores collapsed on the field, blowing an early 6-0 lead, allowing 11 runs in the eighth inning, losing a game – and a series – they badly needed to boost hopes of hosting an NCAA regional.

Credit Jones for trying his best to explain it.

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Shame on Corbin for leaving one of his players in that position. It was a bad look for one of the game's all-time greats, especially after such a disheartening defeat.

On Monday morning, Corbin held a Zoom call with media and remarked that it took longer for him to get over losses than his players. When asked why, Corbin replied, "I'm an emotional guy."

"This (expletive) means a lot to me," he said. "... It's what I do. I've spent 38 years doing this, and the day that I don't give a (expletive) is the day that I won't be in this chair."

For years, Corbin has been known to be notoriously prickly – offering terse answers – in interviews after tough outcomes. After Friday night's loss to LSU, he answered questions for a grand total of 44 seconds. But he did stop outside the dugout to do it.

When he didn't Saturday, he knew what he was doing. Corbin has been coaching for a long time. He is the reason people have grown to care so much about his program, and because they do, he'll typically field questions after games, just like every other coach in other high-profile sports. It's part of their well-paid jobs to be accountable for their programs.

The sight of him bailing on local media after what might have been the season's final home game said more about Corbin's frustration than he ever could anyway. It also spoke to the wobbly status of his team as it enters the SEC Tournament on Tuesday in an elimination game against Ole Miss.

Things aren't well with Corbin's Vandy Boys.

Vanderbilt celebrates a homerun by Parker Noland during their game against LSU at Vanderbilt Friday, May 20, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, United States;  at Hawkins Field. Mandatory Credit: Alan Poizner-The Tennessean

The postseason has arrived to find them a lot better on paper than they keep proving to be in reality. Truth is, these Commodores (35-19, 14-16 SEC) aren't a very good team right now, and they may have bottomed out this weekend. 

LSU scored 42 runs in three games, while Vanderbilt suffered its second home SEC sweep this season (Tennessee was the other). Bad as it was to get drilled at home by the Vols, the LSU series might have been tougher to take, given the timing and the fact the Commodores were hinting that they'd started to turn things around.

They had built hope for a top-16 seed and NCAA regional hosting rights by winning a series at highly ranked Arkansas the previous weekend.

Instead, LSU rolled through the series' first two games by a count of 21-5 and then roared back Saturday, bruising Vanderbilt's egos and bullpen, which couldn't protect an 8-4 lead to start the seventh inning.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin watches his team face Texas A&M during the fifth inning at Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, April 28, 2022.

Failure is on the doorstep now. Vanderbilt doesn’t make lots of demands from its sports. But it has grown to expect things like hosting baseball regionals and taking summer trips to Omaha, Nebraska. While this team is still talented, it hasn’t consistently done anything well enough to think another College World Series trek is imminent.

Its flaws, too, haven’t just appeared suddenly. They were just obscured last season by two starting pitchers so tremendous they were able to carry a team that was struggling in Omaha at the plate and in the field within one win of a national title.

Without Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, the Commodores have had a group of pretty good arms and no aces, leaving the rotation in flux much of the season. And the bullpen? Saturday was alarming.

Fielding remains troublesome. In this month’s series win at Arkansas, Jones misplayed a fly ball that was ruled a double. Two subsequent ground balls plated the tying run in a game Vandy would claim in extra innings.

The bats can heat up at times, but they’ve just as easily gone frigid all at once. The Commodores entered Saturday tied for third in the SEC in batting average (.285) but only 10th in runs scored (358). In a series loss at Auburn in April, the Commodores had two hits in a Friday loss, then a whopping 19 runs in a Saturday win, and then plated only two runs in a Sunday loss.

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It has been that way all season. Hot and cold. Back and forth.

Some tantalizing teases – thrilling comeback wins over Florida, a no-hitter at Kentucky, a series win at Arkansas, Jones’ obliterating two home runs on Saturday – can leave you saying, “Ah, there's Vanderbilt after all.” But it's fleeting. Occasional reminders of this program’s undeniable talent and potential have been packaged with unfamiliar miscues and un-Vanderbilt-like baseball.

If the Commodores are going to be able to put something together this season to change that, they’re running out of time.

They’ll get their swings in the coming weeks. 

They're not done. But they're going to have to do a lot better.

As of Saturday afternoon, the sights and lack of sounds weren't encouraging at all. 

Reach Tennessean sports columnist Gentry Estes at and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.