Tussle With the Tigers

Vandy opens SEC play against Missouri

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt has not lost in a long time. In about one month, to be exact.

During that period the No. 4-ranked Commodores have put together a 13-game winning streak, an impressive run they take with them into the opening weekend of SEC play. Vanderbilt welcomes Missouri for a three-game series starting Friday at Hawkins Field.

“You get into these situations and you have to stay so localized in what you’re doing and just play the game for what it is. If you’re fortunate enough to win a few then that’s great, but really what you’re doing is just chasing good baseball,” Vandy head coach Tim Corbin said. “If we play good baseball on the pitching side, on the defensive side to help ourselves and then, offensively if we’re getting better, then the outcomes are what they are.”

Vanderbilt’s last defeat came Feb. 20 at home to Oklahoma State. Since then the Commodores are averaging 9.8 runs per game, have collected sweeps over Army, Hawaii and Wagner and, Tuesday, scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Michigan 5-4 at Hawkins Field.

Corbin’s club has gotten solid pitching throughout thus far, but the offense has been the catalyst as of late.

Vandy (14-2) ranks ninth nationally in batting average (.327), has an on-base percentage of .420 and a slugging percentage of .529. Dominic Keegan’s .429 average, 18 RBIs and four homers lead the Dores through 16 games.

“I think just (being) more aggressive,” Corbin said on his team’s offensive surge. “I felt like Hawaii was kind of the start of that. I think after the midweek game and us getting to Hawaii and playing on the road, there was more of an aggression to the group as a whole – and certainly with certain players. The aggressive nature of getting off a swing has been the start of it.”

Missouri (12-2) comes to town on a three-game winning streak after dropping a 10-5 decision to Gonzaga at home March 9. The Tigers, who have only played five home games, are led offensively by junior Torin Montgomery (.400, 14 RBIs), sophomore Ross Lovich (11 RBIs), senior Josh Day (12 RBIs, .478 slugging percentage) and freshman Carlos Pena (12 RBIs).

Junior Spencer Miles (2-0, 1.88) has 17 strikeouts in 14.1 innings pitched while sophomore Austin Troesser (3-0, 2.45) is holding opponents to a .182 average.

Missouri leads all SEC teams with two stolen bases per game and is among the nation’s best with 2.54 doubles per contest.

Vanderbilt has beaten Missouri in 22 of 26 all-time matchups and has won four in a row in the series, including a three-game sweep in Columbia, Missouri, in 2021.

Chris McElvain (2-0, 2.33) will start Friday’s matchup on the mound for Vandy while Carter Holton (3-0, 2.74) will get the ball for the Commodores on Saturday. Sunday’s starter is to be determined.

Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. followed by a 2 p.m. Saturday start and noon game Sunday.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.