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February 19, 2013

Baseball: the week ahead

Vanderbilt enters the week with a 2-1 record and five games scheduled. Here's a closer look at what's ahead.

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 4 p.m. at Belmont (3-0, RPI: 1) at Rose Park (Nashville)

About the Bruins: For the second-straight year, Belmont made an NCAA Regional after winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament title as well as the A-Sun regular season championship, and ended the year with a 39-24 mark after dropping its two games in the Baton Rouge Regional.

Belmont is now a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, and placed second behind Austin Peay in the coaches and sports information directors' preseason poll on the strength of six returning position players and 19 returning lettermen.

Friday night starting pitcher Chase Brookshire is the only player who made the OVC's 14-man preseason all-conference team (he was tabbed as the league's Pitcher of the Year), but there are plenty of good players returning like first baseman Judah Akers (.336/.376/.461 last year), right fielder Drew Turner (.298/.364/.379) and third baseman Matt Beaty (.256/.331/.441).

The Bruins opened their season by beating Valparaiso twice (4-3 and 7-3) and Ohio once, all games being played in Nashville.

Park dimensions at Rose Park are 330 down the lines and 400 to center.

Probable VU starter: Philip Pfeiffer

First-pitch weather forecast: 45 degrees, 14 mph winds, 20 percent chance of rain

Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 4:00 p.m., vs. Central Arkansas (3-0, RPI: 78) at Hawkins Field

About the Bears: UCA finished 25-30 last season with a 16-17 mark in the Southland Conference, and was picked fifth in the league's preseason poll this year. The Bears return six positional starters, including preseason first-team All-Southland right fielder Forrestt Allday (.324/.486/.426 last year), first-team center fielder Jonathan Davis (.333/.432/.431) and second-teamer Ethan Harris (.286/.381/.431).

On the mound, the Bears return six guys who threw at least 20 innings from a season ago, including a pair of weekend starters.

Central Arkansas opened its season by sweeping Murray State by scores of 10-1, 13-1 and 6-5. However, the opposition may be a bit suspect since Murray was picked 10th of 11 teams in the OVC's preseason poll.

Probable VU starter: Walker Buehler (college debut)

Game day weather forecast: High of 48, low of 26, with winds from 10 to 20 mph, 0 percent chance of rain

Feb. 22-24 vs. Monmouth (1-0, RPI: 78) at Hawkins Field

About the Mountain Hawks: Monmouth went 35-24 last year, finishing second in the Northeast Conference with a 21-11 record. However, the Northeast is not a traditionally-strong league, and it ranked 28th of the 32 conferences in RPI last year.

This year, the Mountain Hawks return 21 lettermen, including five position players, which earned them a third-place selection out of nine teams in the coaches' preseason poll. The top returning hitter is senior infielder Danny Avella (.288, eight homers last season) and a pair of weekend starting pitchers also return in junior lefty Andrew McGee (4.58 ERA in 76.2 IP, with 24 BBs and 61 Ks) and senior left-hander Dan Smith (4.88, 79.1, 17/34).

Monmouth beat Villanova by a 7-6 score on Friday, but had its other two games canceled due to weather.

Probable VU starters: Kevin Ziomek (Fri.), Tyler Beede (Sat.), T.J. Pecoraro (Sun.)

Weekend weather forecast: Friday: 55/43, 20 percent chance of rain; Saturday: 56/36; 10 percent chance of rain; Sunday: 61/36, 30 percent chance of rain

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