Nashville, Tenn. - The Vanderbilt baseball team opens fall practice Tuesday at a newly renovated Hawkins Field with plenty of talent returning from last year's team.
The Commodores bring back 25 players from last season's squad, including 10 pitchers.
Of Vanderbilt's 63 games in 2012, 41 starts return in the form of junior pitchers Keenan Kolinsky (two starts), T.J. Pecoraro (eight) and Kevin Ziomek (16) and sophomores Tyler Beede (11), Jared Miller (three) and Brian Miller (one). Pecoraro returned to the weekend rotation from elbow surgery late last season to provide a boost for the Dores going 2-1 with a 1.21 ERA over his final four starts. Ziomek led the team with 79.1 innings pitched and was tabbed the No. 5 prospect in the prestigious Cape Cod League over the summer.
Offensively, 11 of the returning 15 players started at least 10 games a year ago. Senior Mike Yastrzemski and juniors Conrad Gregor and Tony Kemp started all 63 games for the Dores in 2012 and return to the lineup this fall. Spencer Navin returns as well after starting 57 games behind the plate for VU as a sophomore, hitting .298 and guiding a young pitching staff. Gregor lit up the Cape Cod League on his way to earning Summer All-American honors from Perfect Game. Kemp matched the single-season school record with eight triples last season giving him a school record 15 in his first two seasons on West End.
The roster features four seniors in Connor Harrell, Andrew Harris, Jack Lupo and Yastrzemski. Harrell and Yastrzemski each return for their senior season after turning down professional baseball last summer. Harrell was a 31st round selection of the Detroit Tigers and Yastrzemski was a 30th round pick of the Seattle Mariners.
A talented freshman class joins nine juniors (Gregor, Kemp, Kolinsky, Navin, Pecoraro, Ziomek, D.J. Luna, Joel McKeithan, and Steven Rice), 11 sophomores (Beede, Connor Castellano, Will Cooper, Vince Conde, Chris Harvey, Brian Miller, Jared Miller, John Norwood, Philip Pfeifer, Adam Ravenelle and Nevin Wilson) and one redshirt freshman (Zander Wiel) to round out the roster.
The 11-man freshman class is regarded as one of the best in the nation consisting of six pitchers (Walker Buehler, Pat Delano, Tyler Ferguson, Carson Fulmer, Chris Raasch and Luke Stephenson) and five position players (Tyler Campbell, Kyle Smith, Dansby Swanson, Xavier Turner and Rhett Wiseman). Seven of the incoming freshmen chose Vanderbilt over professional baseball led by pitchers Walker Buehler (14th round - Pittsburgh) and Carson Fulmer (15th - Boston).
The Commodores' annual Black & Gold Series will be held October 25, 26 and 28 in conjunction with Homecoming Weekend when the Vanderbilt football team hosts Massachusetts.