NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Commodores are starting to heat up.
Two weeks after losing to Cal Poly in walk-off fashion in Scottsdale, Arizona, Vanderbilt hasn’t been beaten since. A combination of dominant pitching and crafty offense has Vandy on a seven-game winning streak going into the weekend against visiting Hawaii.
“The first weekend we were kind of feeling for it a little bit. That could be expected,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “With a lot of newer kids with different roles, they’re just trying to get comfortable. I’m glad they’ve found a little comfort over the last couple weeks.”
The Commodores (7-2) have outscored opponents 46-7 combined in the last seven games. Four of those contests have been shutouts thanks to a pitching staff that has been relentless.
Vandy now ranks second nationally with those four shutouts, is seventh in WHIP (0.90), strikeouts per nine innings (4.13) and hits allowed per nine innings (5.02) and eighth in ERA 1.16.
“I think even last year I didn’t know how good the pitching staff could be or affective they could be,” Corbin said. “As long as they can just continue to give us quality performances – and I say quality performances, not so much shutting teams down completely because that doesn’t happen either – but it’s just the ability to just to give us a shot, to give us a chance to win to try to keep the opposition off the scoreboard.”
Offensively, the Dores are showing signs of life after a relatively slow start to the campaign.
Junior Austin Martin belted two home runs Wednesday in a 10-run outburst against Saint Louis and Vanderbilt’s 23 total doubles now ranks ninth in the country. A return to the lineup for catcher Ty Duvall and first baseman Dominic Keegan from offseason injuries has helped give that offense some depth and versatility.
Hawaii, meanwhile, comes to town having recently taken a four-game series from North Dakota State and splitting a four-game set with Washington State, respectively. The Rainbow Warriors (7-3) are off to their best start since 2012.
Vanderbilt last played Hawaii, a program which hasn’t been to an NCAA Regional since 2010, in 1981 when it dropped five straight to begin that season – and Vandy actually trails the series between the two teams 2-18 having lost 11 in a row dating back to a 6-1 Commodore win in 1977.
“(Hawaii head) coach (Mike) Trapasso and I have had a relationship for a long period of time – he was at Georgia Tech as an assistant when I was at Clemson so I’ve known him for a while. But it’s really about our ability to go back there at some point, too,” Corbin said. “So we’re going to bring them in here in March and probably have very similar conditions to Honolulu and they’ll get a chance to play a good team – a team that can pitch, play defense and, right now, that’s winning a lot of ballgames. Really looking forward to it.”
All three matchups between the Commodores and Rainbow Warriors 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, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Logan Pouelsen (0-1, 6.06 ERA)
• SATURDAY: RHP Kumar Rocker (2-0, 0.75 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Davenport (2-0, 2.76 ERA)
• SUNDAY: LHP Jake Eder (1-0, 4.00 ERA) vs. LHP Brandon Ross (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Vanderbilt will celebrate former standout Sam Selman’s 2019 Major League debut with the raising of his MLB flag on Friday. As is the case each Friday, a DJ will be mixing tracks to kick off the weekend.
On Sunday, the first 1,000 fans will receive a complimentary Vanderbilt t-shirt. Postgame, kids 12-and-younger can run a lap around the bases.
Kids are admitted at no cost to all three games. 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. The 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.
Vanderbilt closes its 11-game homestand at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday against Central Arkansas. Outfield seats are available for just $7. The game will be streamed on the SEC Network Plus. Vanderbilt will enter Tuesday riding a 10-game win streak in midweek nonconference home games.