As the ball soared off his bat, towered into right field and landed outside of Hawkins Field, Conrad Gregor slowly made his way toward first base with his right arm extended.
The Vanderbilt slugger insists he wasn’t admiring his handiwork but following through with his swing.
“I focused on holding my finish and got into it,” Gregor said. “I watched it. I made sure it left the stadium. You like to see them leave when they do.”
These days, it is hard not to stop and appreciate what the Commodores do.
Fourth-ranked Vanderbilt capped a three-game sweep of No. 10 Mississippi State with an 8-3 win on Sunday. Winners of six straight and 20 of their last 22, the Commodores find themselves atop the Southeastern Conference standings by three games over second-place LSU (39-6, 16-5). They won 5-2 on Saturday and 3-1 on Friday.
We are playing real good ball right now,” T.J. Pecoraro, Sunday's starting pitcher, said. “Everybody is confident. Everybody is hitting. They’re a real good team. I'm a little surprised we kept them down that well. But we have great arms on this team. We have great defense. The way we’re playing it is going to be tough for anybody to beat us.”
At 19-2 in league play, Vanderbilt has compiled the best record through 21 games in SEC history. The 2000 South Carolina team went 18-3 before finishing 25-5, the best mark since the SEC went to a 30-game season in 1996.
On Saturday, after rain delayed the first pitch for four hours, Tyler Beede stayed perfect. The sophomore scattered hits and gave up just two runs for his 11th win in 11 starts. His 11-0 record matches David Price for the best start in program history.
“The mentality of the kids and how they go about business is why they’re in that position right now,” coach Tim Corbin said. “Nothing really changes. We don’t focus on the record and you can’t, really, because if you start playing streaks you start playing the records. … There have been some good teams in the conference but we want to be the best team at the end of the year, not necessarily the best one right now.”
Gregor put together a three-hit, three RBI game to help Vanderbilt improve to 39-6.
The junior third baseman started the scoring in the bottom of the first. He smacked a two-run single in front of a diving C.T. Bradford in center field to spark a five-run inning. Vanderbilt scored two more in the second to jump out to a 7-0 lead on a Mississippi State team that entered the series having won 10 of 12.
After the Bulldogs tallied runs in the sixth and seventh inning, Gregor brought the crowd of 3,243 to its feet. On a 1-0 pitch from Trevor Fitts, Gregor led off the bottom of the seventh by a crushing a fastball for his second home run of the season. The blast unloaded some frustration for Gregor, whose batting average had dropped to .276 after just three hits in his last 16 at-bats.
“I’ve hit a lot of hard balls to the wall this year. Unfortunately they haven’t carried out,” he said. “This one did and I put my all into it and got all of it and it felt really good.”