NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The top of Vanderbilt’s batting order has been a spark to its early success in 2019.
Against Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday, the Commodores continued their trend of an aggressive approach at the top of the order. Cooper Davis, Austin Martin and JJ Bleday combined to go 9-for-17 with five RBIs and five runs. Bleday and Martin both went yard along the way.
Those three players helped the Commodores scatter 16 hits and dispose of Southeast Missouri State, 11-3, at Hawkins Field. With that, Vanderbilt improved to 6-1 on the year, thanks in part to its first three hitters.
“They’re giving us good at-bats,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said of Bleday, Davis and Martin. “They’re giving us good at-bats with two strikes. Cooper continues to do a lot of different things offensively. He’s going to show you his game, whether it’s bunt, whether it’s putting the ball in play with two strikes. JJ’s taking good at-bats … The top of the order has been very good for us throughout the year, especially as of late.”
Vanderbilt’s trio at the top of the order has been red-hot through seven games. Bleday, Davis and Martin entered Tuesday a combined 34-76 (.447) from the plate this season with 25 runs and 11 RBI. They added to that with yet another big group performance against the Redhawks.
Though Bleday and Martin notched home runs on Tuesday, it was perhaps Davis who put the exclamation point on Vanderbilt. Facing two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Davis singled to center field to drive in the final two runs as part of a five-run eighth inning to push the score to 11-3.
Corbin said the eighth was a turning point in Tuesday’s game.
“It kept us going there at the end,” Corbin said. “Just getting on base and trying to put more pressure. We hit a couple of balls at them, but we spread the infield a little bit. They just couldn’t get the ball, couldn’t finish plays and convert them into outs. [We made] hard contact and we spread the lead late.”
Offense has remained a hallmark of Vanderbilt’s early stretch to the season. Tuesday marked the Dores’ sixth multi-hit performance in their first seven games. They entered this week tied for first in the SEC in triples (four), second in batting average (.336) and on-base percentage (.440) and fourth in hits (72). Vanderbilt has now scored five runs or more runs in six of seven games to start the season.
The top of Vanderbilt’s order has keyed that success, and Bleday said each member of that trio brings something different to the table.
“We know what we want to do, we have an idea of what we want to do, but it’s baseball and it’s not always going to happen,” Bleday said. “… We’re just trying to use our tools. Cooper bunts a lot, A-Mar is an all-around phenomenal hitter and bunter. I just think we use our tools very well.”
The Dores must wait before their offense is tested against the likes of SEC competition. But Bleday said Vanderbilt’s isn’t resting on its laurels despite gaudy numbers in nonconference play.
“Not really,” Bleday said. “We always get right back to the middle. We’re not trying to be someone we’re not. We’re not trying to get out of the zone or go after stats. We’re playing the game and trying to get something to hit. The rest will work itself out.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.