Vanderbilt hadn’t lost to the same team twice all season.
Timely hitting helped the third-ranked Commodores avoid the series sweep to Middle Tennessee State.
Vanderbilt scored nine runs with two outs in a 12-3 rout of in-state rival MTSU on Tuesday night at Hawkins Field. The Commodores avenged a 4-1 loss to the Blue Raiders last month in Murfreesboro.
“They think they have the inning done and we come back and get two-strike, two-out RBI,” shortstop Vince Conde said. “It is like a dagger. We want that all the time. We want to show who the best team in Tennessee is. We just want to make that exclamation point.”
Vanderbilt (26-4) has thrived on clutch hitting all season. Of the team’s 191 RBIs, 80 (41.8 percent) have been with two outs.
“I don’t know how much we stress it,” coach Tim Corbin said. “We stress more about being able to be competitive in that situation right there and just being able to touch the ball and make something happen. It is just being competitive more than anything else.”
In the first meeting against the Blue Raiders (16-15), the Commodores squandered opportunities and left 10 runners on base. This time, they again stranded 10 but produced in clutch moments.
Left-hander Jordan Cooper again got the start for MTSU. In the first meeting, he allowed just three hits in 4.2 innings but walked six. On Tuesday, he surrendered just one hit but struggled with his command and walked four.
He hit consecutive batters in the third to load the bases and end his night.
Two batters later, Conde broke open a 1-1 game with a two-out grand slam. The right-handed hitter turned on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Joey McClung and stroked his fourth home run of the season into the first row out in left-center field. It was the third grand slam of the season for the Commodores and second in as many games. Kyle Smith also cleared the bases with his first career home run against Tennessee on Sunday.
“I think Vinny’s [home run] set the tone a little bit,” Corbin said. “There was a little breakdown just before that [with a strikeout] but he picked [teammate Mike Yastrzemski] up and a two-strike hit as well driving that ball into the seats. That got us going. We had some clutch two-out hits.”
Vanderbilt rolled to its seventh straight victory by knocking in seven runs with two outs.
Xavier Turner drove in a run with a groundout, Yastrzemski delivered a run-scoring single and Connor Harrell smacked a two-run single through the left side. Harrell also beat out a double play in the first to allow the first run to score with two outs and Smith scored on a wild pitch in the seventh.
“It was huge,” said Turner, whose four runs scored tied for the team-high this season. “We hit the ball hard. We had 12 hits. We had eight hits hit hard right at people. The bats are coming around, thank God.”