Bryan Johns and Andrew Giobbi each hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning Sunday as Vanderbilt clinched a spot in the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament with a 14-4 victory at Mississippi State.
The victory gave the Commodores (39-13, 15-10 in the SEC) a sweep of the three-game series. They overcame a two-run, ninth-inning deficit and won 13-7 in 10 innings on Saturday and had a season-high 19 hits in a 13-8 victory on Friday.
The last time they scored 10 or more in all three games of a conference series was in 2007 against Florida.
“I think the kids are confident right now,” coach Tim Corbin said. “I don’t think we’re a great team, but I think we’re solid and we don’t have a lot of holes, and right now I feel as good about one through nine in our lineup as I have all year.”
On Sunday, Jason Esposito tied a school record when he became the fourth Vanderbilt player ever (the first since Hunter Bledsoe in 1999) to walk five times in a game. Officially, he was 1-for-1 with a double and two runs scored.
Joe Loftus had a team-high three hits, and starting pitcher Jack Armstrong improved to 7-1 on the season as he allowed nine hits and two runs in seven innings.
Vanderbilt has three games remaining in the regular season (a series against Arkansas, which begins Thursday). The conference tournament is May 26-30 at Hoover, Ala.
“It’s business as usual (against Arkansas),” Corbin said. “We still have a lot to play for in terms of trying to get into the (NCAA) tournament. Plus we’re playing a very good team, and when you’re competitive you want to play well and you want to maintain whatever momentum you have.”
That means sophomore pitcher Sonny Gray likely will start the series opener as scheduled, despite the fact that he was forced to leave Friday night’s game after he collided with a runner as he covered first base.
“He just needs to stop playing tackle football when he’s on the baseball field,” Corbin said. “It was a little scary because he had blood coming out of his nose. He had no broken bones in his face, he kept the pitch chart (Sunday) and he had no headaches. So he’s fine.”
Lacrosse loses on last-second goal
Sophomores Ally Carey and Alex Priddy had four goals each, and senior Carter Foote had her seventh hat trick of the season, but the Commodores allowed a goal with one second to play and lost 16-15 to Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday.
There were nine ties and five lead changes in the contest. Vanderbilt led 15-13 was held scoreless over the final seven minutes. Duke tied it with three minutes remaining and notched the game-winner when Lindsay Gilbride scored her fifth of the day.
Senior Sarah Downing, the Commodores’ all-time assists leader, added three to her total and set the school’s single-season record with 34. Carey set a single-season record with 63 draw controls, which broke the mark she set in 2009.
VU tennis teams fall in NCAA
The Vanderbilt women lost to host Tennessee 4-1 in the second round of the NCAA team tournament Saturday in a match which lasted almost four hours. Hannah Blatt scored the lone win for the Commodores with a straight-set victory at No. 6 singles. Vanderbilt beat Indiana 4-0 in its opening match Friday.
The Vanderbilt men (13-11) wound up their season with a 4-0 loss to Virginia Tech Saturday in Louisville. It was the first time in nine trips the Commodores lost their opening NCAA team match.
Catherine Newman and Jackie Wu (women) and Ryan Lipman (men) head to the NCAA nationals in Athens, Ga., next week to compete in the NCAA individual championships.
— Harold Huggins contributed to this report