Cotham helps settle VU pitching rotation

Friday, March 21, 2008 at 1:47am

Caleb Cotham admits to battling some nervousness when he pitched in his first Southeastern Conference game last weekend.

He certainly did a good job of masking it.

The Vanderbilt redshirt freshman improved his record to 3-0 by allowing one earned run and striking out nine batters in 5.2 innings to lead the Commodores to a 10-4 win over South Carolina on Sunday.

Fifth-ranked VU won two of three games in the series to open SEC play and begins a three-game series tonight at Alabama.

“There were some butterflies, but I kind of took them more as motivation,” Cotham said. “I wanted to show them I am ready for this.”

Vanderbilt hoped for a fast start this season from Cotham as it attempted to overhaul its starting pitching rotation, which returned only Mike Minor from last year.

Cotham, a product of Mt. Juliet High and former all-district selection, quickly worked his way in and shows no signs of backing out. His 1.88 earned-run average is the team’s best.

Despite his jitters, Cotham was fearless against South Carolina, using a fastball that tops 90 miles-per-hour to challenge Gamecock hitters such as Justin Smoak, one of the nation’s top sluggers.

His victory Sunday came one day after the Gamecocks had hammered the Commodores 16-7.

“I was just trying to come out with an edge,” Cotham said. “We got beat pretty [Saturday], and I wanted to come out and make a statement early on, just compete and show them that we weren’t going to give in.

“You’ve got to be fearless going after big hitters like that. You have to forget about (yesterday), and you can’t give them too much credit. You can’t come in today saying “Oh, they’re so great. What am I going to do?” I was aggressive, and it paid off.”

Vanderbilt [13-4, 2-1] at Alabama [9-9, 0-3]

Tonight, 6:30

Saturday, 2 p.m.

Sunday, 1 p.m.

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