NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s pitching has been as advertised in the early stages of 2020.
After five games the Commodores have an ERA of 1.81 and the team’s starting pitchers are even better, posting an 0.74 mark in 24 1/3 innings pitched.
“We’ve given ourselves an opportunity in each one of the games,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said Thursday. “Even Sunday vs. Cal Poly (in a 9-8 loss) we rebounded well and pitched pretty well. I think that’s all you can ask is giving your team an opportunity to win.
“Certainly during Tuesday and Wednesday we stopped a very good team and those young kids pitched well.”
Vanderbilt starters this season:
— Vanderbilt Baseball (@VandyBoys) February 20, 2020
Junior Jake Eder is the only Vandy starter who has been touched up for an earned run thus far, and he only surrendered two in his first outing of the season. Eder started Sunday against Cal Poly in Vanderbilt’s opening-weekend rotation after junior Mason Hickman threw Friday and Kumar Rocker tossed Saturday.
Corbin hasn’t announced if Eder will toe the rubber or if another one of his formidable freshmen will get a chance to showcase his stuff.
“Just thinking about Friday right now,” Corbin said. “We’ll get through Hickman first and then we’ll kind of think forward.”
The Commodores (3-2) are coming off a sweep of South Alabama in which they threw two consecutive shutouts. The star of that pair of outings was freshman Jack Leiter who fanned 12 in five innings Tuesday – and also didn’t allow a hit.
Vandy has seen seven freshmen pitchers make their debuts in the season’s first five games and only one was surrendered and earned run. Corbin attributed that success to one key character trait.
“Maturity is a big deal in this program. It’s just the ability to move forward as a person,” he said after Thursday’s 4-0 win. “If you got that maturity it allows you to do so. If you don’t it’s going to take a lot longer and you put a lot of stress on yourself.
“So being able to act accordingly, develop a good routine, make good choices and decisions – which they do for the most part – but when you got kids who make high-end decisions it ends up helping them and us which is the most-important thing for all of our team.”
Vanderbilt now turns its attention to an Illinois-Chicago program that opened the year at Auburn where it lost four games and was outscored 44-7. But the Flames are coming off a 29-23 season in which they won the Horizon League tournament to advance to an NCAA Regional.
In 2017, Illinois-Chicago came to Nashville and took 2 of 3 from the Commodores before going on to win 39 games.
The Commodores will be mindful of that when the three-game series opens at 4:30 p.m. Friday and as they continue to lay the foundation of a long campaign.
“It’s all about what’s next,” Corbin said. “It’s not what we’ve done, it’s how we move from this point. We’re still building the team. Good bunch of guys, but this is an ongoing process for sure.”
All three matchups between the Commodores and Flames will be streamed on the SEC Network Plus. SEC Network subscribers can tune in through WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
Fans can also listen to the game via the VUCommodores app and locally on WNSR 560 AM/95.9 FM.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
• FRIDAY: RHP Mason Hickman (1-0, .00 ERA) vs. RHP Jacob Key (0-1, 7.50 ERA)
• SATURDAY: RHP Kumar Rocker (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Nick Oliff (0-1, 18.56 ERA)
• SUNDAY: TBA vs. RHP Bobby Nicholson (0-1, 12.27 ERA)
The Vanderbilt ticket office has announced that kids will be admitted to a select number of games at no cost. The promotion, which applies to those in eighth grade and younger the day of game, will allow kids in free to all nonconference games through March 31. This promotion will be limited based on ticket availability.
Complimentary kids’ tickets must be claimed at the Hawkins Field box office on the day of game only, no earlier than 2 ½ hours before the first pitch.
NEED TO KNOW
Vanderbilt is 22-6 all-time against Illinois-Chicago with the last meeting coming in 2017 at Hawkins Field. The Commodores are 26-6 all-time against current Horizon League teams.
Vanderbilt is 471-165-1 (.740) all-time at Hawkins Field including a 363-106-1 (.773) mark since 2007. Against nonconference opponents at the facility, Vanderbilt is 272-51 (.842). Since 2007 at home vs. nonconference teams, the Commodores are 206-34 (.858).
Vanderbilt’s 15-member freshman class has made a big impact. Twelve student-athletes have made debuts. Commodore freshmen have accounted for 60 percent (14 of 23) of the team’s RBIs, 41 percent of runs (10 of 24) and 34 percent (13 of 38) of hits. True freshmen pitchers have registered a 1.77 ERA alongside a 29-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 20.1 innings.
Vanderbilt continues its 11-game homestand by playing host to Evansville at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Saint Louis at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Both games will be streamed on the SEC Network Plus.