Coach Tim Corbin

I’ve become a fan of the annual College World Series, which is held every June in Omaha, Neb., and this year will be one to remember. The baseball teams from both the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University are playing, and Mississippi State is also there, giving the SEC three of the eight teams in the 2021 CWS.

I am very proud to be a Tennessean, and I have many fond memories of going to baseball games over the years with my sons — watching their faces light up as players took the field, hearing the crack of the bat, eating hot dogs, the whole experience. I have enjoyed watching Vanderbilt baseball come so far over the years. The team was not always as stellar as it has been recentlyobservers had even labeled the team a “perennial doormat” of college baseball at one point.

But no more! 

When coach Tim Corbin first arrived at Vanderbilt in 2003 as head coach, the school’s baseball team had seen only six winning seasons out of 35 years in SEC play, and been to only three NCAA tournaments. Since 2004, under Corbin’s direction, the Commodores have been to every NCAA tournament but one. Ten years ago the team reached its first CWS, and this year marks their fifth trip. Of the four prior College World Series appearances, the Commodores brought home the national championship twice, in 2014 and again in 2019. 

There was no 2020 CWS due to the pandemic, so Vanderbilt is the defending CWS champion thanks to the team’s 2019 title. They’re also a favorite to repeat. UT would love to stand in Vanderbilt’s way — which could be unlikely due to their opening CWS loss — but if they win four straight elimination games, they could still be in the best-of-three finals. (Our press deadline was Monday, so I am hoping UT beat Texas on Tuesday.)

I also have to hand it to UT’s coach Tony Vitello — he’s been with the Vols’ baseball program only since 2017, but here they are, already in Omaha. That’s likely in large part due to Vitello, who’s been regarded as one of the top recruiting coordinators in America. 

UTSports.com reports that after leading the program back to the NCAA Tournament in 2019, Coach Vitello and the Vols would have likely had a strong 2020. The team was ranked as high as No. 11 in the nation after a 13-0 start, and was 15-2 heading into SEC play before the season was canceled due to COVID-19. At the start of 2019, the Vols had won their first 15 games of the season, making it the best start in the program’s history. 

What about this year? 

This year, the Vols won 18 of their first 22 games and were ranked ninth nationally, and now they’re in Omaha for the CWS. They could potentially face Vanderbilt, if the stars align. As The Tennessean notes, “Each side has a lot to lose — perhaps to the one school it would least like to lose it to.”

The CWS finals do not begin until June 28, so there’s no telling what will happen in the meantime — or if UT or Vanderbilt will make it all the way through. But every Tennessean baseball fan is sitting on the edge of our seat. Every College World Series game is exciting, but this year is especially exciting, as we watch two great teams represent our state. Win or lose, they are two of the greatest teams out there — as is proven by their very presence at Omaha’s CWS 2021. 

Bill Freeman

Bill Freeman is the owner of FW Publishing, the publishing company that produces the Nashville Scene, Nfocus, the Nashville Post and Home Page Media Group in Williamson County.

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