Aaron Westlake hit a home run for the fourth straight game, and three pitchers combined for a shutout as No. 19 Vanderbilt defeated No. 15 Arkansas 2-0 Wednesday in the first round of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament.
Westlake led off the top of the eighth when he drove a 2-0 pitch over the wall in center field for his 12th home run of the season. He had one in each of last weekend’s three games between the Commodores and Razorbacks.
"It felt good," Westlake said. "(I've) been feeling good the past couple of days so I was fortunate to get it over that fence. It’s a big ballpark here.
"(I'm) finally finding a stroke that is comfortable for me and allows me to see the ball better. It kind of gets me in sync."
The sophomore first baseman also scored the first run when he came home on a wild pitch in the sixth. Westlake led off that inning with a walk, went to second on a sacrifice by Curt Casali and moved to third on a groundout by Andrew Giobbi.
Vanderbilt will face LSU in the last of four games Thursday.
Pitcher Sonny Gray allowed seven hits but struck out eight and walked only one in seven innings.
He was replaced by Richie Goodenow after he allowed a leadoff single in the eighth. Goodenow promptly induced a double-play and then gave way to Chase Reid, who got the final four outs and earned the save.
It was the Commodores’ fifth shutout of the season.
"It was just a pitching performance (Wednesday) night," VU coach Tim Corbin said. "I thought Sonny pitched very well obviously, anyone could see that. He was very consistent and the time he ran into trouble in the second inning he got out of it, a couple of strikeouts, made a couple big double plays after that.
It was pitching (Wednesday) night. Pitching and defense, that’s about it."