Sonny Gray’s ejection last Friday for hitting a batter was a first for the Vanderbilt pitcher – not just in his college career, but his entire sporting life.
“That was my first out of anything, any sport,” Gray said Monday. “It’s not fun. But the umpire had his mind made up and I guess that’s what he thought.”
Part of the fallout from that incident, which occurred in the bottom of the eighth inning against Tennessee, is that Gray, the Commodores’ ace, won’t be the first to take the mound this weekend against Georgia.
Southeastern Conference and NCAA rules mandate that a pitcher who gets ejected must sit out the next four contests. Vanderbilt played two more against Tennessee but had just one non-conference game scheduled this week (6 p.m. Tuesday at Austin Peay).
The three-game series with Georgia begins Friday at Hawkins Field. That means Gray won’t be available to throw again until Saturday.
The issue is compounded by the fact that rain forced Saturday’s game at Knoxville to be postponed until Sunday. Vanderbilt’s other two weekend starters, Jack Armstrong and Taylor Hill, each threw that day, which means one of them likely will have just four days between starts.
“We still have to talk about it,” coach Tim Corbin said. “The hiccup is playing the doubleheader (Sunday). You’ve got Hill and Armstrong – we could start either one of those knowing that Sonny will pitch on Saturday. Then the other person pitches on Sunday.
“(Armstrong) usually needs a little bit more time so it could very well be Taylor (on Friday), but I’m not really too sure yet.”
Hill pitched 6.2 innings in the third game of the series against UT but threw just 89 pitches. Armstrong lasted only 4.2 innings and threw just 75 pitches in the first game of the doubleheader.
Vanderbilt lost both games after having won the opener 10-1 on Friday.
Gray leads the Commodores and is fourth in the SEC in both ERA (2.22) and opponents’ batting average (.205). He is second in the conference with 72 strikeouts and is one of eight SEC pitchers with at least six wins at the start of this week.
The sophomore right-hander allowed three hits, struck out 10 and walked none in seven innings against UT. He was ejected when he hit Zach Osborne and the umpire ruled that he had done so intentionally.
All three Tennessee pitchers hit at least one VU batter in that game, including starter Bryan Morgado, who hit three. For the weekend, the Commodores were hit by pitches nine times. The Volunteers were hit twice.
“That’s the best I’ve probably felt all year on the mound,” Gray said. “… It was just an unfortunate thing to have happen.
(The umpire) just thought something was happening on the field that wasn’t necessarily happening. At the end, that’s his decision and you have to live with, come back and get ready to pitch the next week.”
Even if it is one day later than usual.