Thirteen times on Tuesday night, Vanderbilt took a stroll 90 feet down the line to first base.
The trips down the third-base line and across home plate were fewer but thanks to another stellar outing by Sam Selman it didn’t matter.
The Commodores had nine walks and four hit batsmen but stranded 11 runners. Selman, however, kept Middle Tennessee State in check with a career-high nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in a 5-1 Vanderbilt victory at Hawkins Field.
It was Selman’s fourth straight win as the midweek starter and moved the Commodores (17-20) to within three games of .500 for the first time in a month.
“That is four consecutive weeks he has bailed us out in terms of midweek wins and his ability to come in and get to the sixth inning. It is just outstanding,” coach Tim Corbin said. “I’m happy for him and happy for our team. A lot of strikes, aggressive. He did a nice job.”
A one-hour rain delay that postponed the first pitch didn’t slow down Selman (4-3). The left-hander looked sharp out of the gate, striking out four in the first two innings. He had pitched 19 2/3 innings of scoreless ball before giving up a run in the third.
The junior used 108 pitches to scatter seven hits. He located a fastball that touched 94 miles per hour and a slider that dipped to 78. Eight of his strikeouts came with the batter swinging.
“The first two innings I probably was struggling a little bit with command and trying to be more pinpoint than accuracy,” Selman said. “But I was able to, in the third, fourth and fifth, probably just throw strikes down the middle and let the defense work and just get ahead of guys. That was probably what helped me the most today.”
Selman received all the run support he needed with a four-run first inning.
The first start for MTSU left-hander Cody Tollison, an Ensworth grad, only lasted five batters. He walked three and allowed two hits – an infield bunt by Anthony Gomez and a two-run single from Mike Yastrzemski that snuck through the right side.
After Paul Mittura replaced Tollison, Chris Harvey blooped an RBI-single to right field. Yastrzemski followed by scoring on a double play ball.
Thanks to four relief pitchers and four double plays, the Blue Raiders (21-16) stuck around. They threatened in the ninth, putting runners on second and third with one out against Brian Miller. But the side-armed right-hander struck out the next two batters to pick up his team-best fourth save. The Franklin native allowed one hit and struck out four in 3 1/3 innings in his team-leading 21st appearance.
Heading into this weekend’s SEC road trip against last-place Alabama, the Commodores have won four of five. They’ve haven’t been this close to evening up their win-loss record since improving to 7-10 after defeating Siena on March 14.
“We played a very difficult schedule to begin with. We probably lost a little confidence,” Corbin said. We got hit and we got hit hard. Now team is starting to rebound a little bit. … The pitching is starting to come together. People our starting to understand their roles and we’re developing a confidence right now.”