Thrill of Victory

Vanderbilt continues its progress towards postseason

T.J. Pecoraro saved the best performance for his life when Vanderbilt needed it most. Last night, Pecoraro pitched a five-hit, complete-game, 3-0 shutout of Ole Miss, and the Commodores are now two games over .500 for the first time all season.

The significance of the win is huge. The Commodores have played a demanding schedule – if you look at the latest College Baseball News rankings, VU has played a three-game series against each team, not to mention three games each against No. 15 Stanford and 20th-ranked San Diego. Vandy also has momentum, winning 14 of its last 20 games.

The one thing the Commodores don’t have is a guarantee they’ll finish above .500. Though the Commodores’ resume at this point almost certainly qualifies them, finishing over .500 is important because you can’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament without being at least a game over that mark.

So, how can Vandy guarantee its eligibility? (Note I said, “eligibility,” not a bid.) It simply needs some combination of two wins between its final two regular-season games against Ole Miss and next week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, which could potentially serve VU two losses since it’s a double-elimination format.

Two more wins, and history is on Vandy’s side
Vandy’s best bet would be to take care of business on its own turf this weekend. It could ride to Hoover virtually certain that whatever happens there, it will be in the NCAAs.

Since the NCAA expanded the field to 64 teams in 1998, the committee has been especially generous to the SEC. Within the last decade, the SEC has gotten nine bids three times: 2004, 2005 and 2008. Four times – 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010 – the league got eight in. Only once in that span has that number fallen below seven; that was 2007, when just five teams made postseason.

Should the Commodores get to .500 in regular-season SEC play, then stay over .500 overall, history suggests they’ll make the NCAAs. Each eligible SEC team to go .500 in better on conference play has made the tourney since 2008 (Alabama went 15-15 in 2007 and didn’t make it).

Hoover seeding
Last night’s SEC action did little to help clear up the seeding picture. We already knew the 10 teams heading to Hoover before the weekend, but nothing else is guaranteed, especially after the LSU-South Carolina game was postponed due to rain.

Going into Friday’s action, this is how the seeding breaks down:

1. South Carolina (17-9)
2. Kentucky (18-10)
3. LSU (17-10)
4. Florida (17-11)
5. Georgia (14-13)
6. Mississippi State (14-14)
7. Vanderbilt (14-14)
8. Ole Miss (14-14)
9. Arkansas (14-14)
10. Auburn (12-16)

How are ties broken? Here’s a link to the SEC Tournament tiebreaking procedures. If I’ve understood it correctly, MSU gets the 6-seed by virtue of its 1-0 record vs. Kentucky, with Vandy (2-1 vs. UK) getting the 7-spot, and Ole Miss and Arkansas (both 1-2 vs. UK) breaking the tie between those teams by virtue of Ole Miss’s 2-1 season edge over the Razorbacks.

Of course, none of this matters much, since there are two more games to play and each day’s action will almost certainly re-shuffle the pack. But it’s fun to think about while we’re waiting on baseball to be played.

If the seeds held, the Commodores would play Mississippi State sometime around lunch on Tuesday, with the winner of that game playing… well, that’s not entirely clear. Here’s a link to the SEC Tournament bracket and you’ll see what I mean.