NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It’s unclear whether Vanderbilt packed sunglasses and sunscreen ahead of its trip to sunny Talking Stick, Arizona, for last weekend’s MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament.
But the Commodores certainly brought at least one item to the desert: their bats.
This week, No. 1 Vanderbilt returned to Nashville having won two of its three games in the MLB4 Collegiate with convincing victories over Virginia, 15-9, on Friday and No. 25 Cal State Fullerton, 14-9, on Saturday. Even a 10-2 loss to No. 19 TCU on Sunday was not enough to cool piping-hot offensive numbers from the weekend.
In three games, Vanderbilt batted a whopping .330 as a team and posted a 430 on-base percentage. The Commodores batted .359 (23-for-64) with runners on base, .462 (12-for-26) in the leadoff position and .417 (20-for-48) with two outs.
Commodores head coach Tim Corbin said his team had looked good at the plate in the preseason, but he was pleased to see it translate to games.
“You never know,” Corbin said. “I thought we were swinging it pretty good against our pitching, but you don’t have a good barometer of what our pitching is, what our hitting is. So we needed a little bit of feedback … It was good to do it in front of someone else.”
The Commodores’ barrage at the plate began against Virginia, against whom they collected 17 hits from eight different players. Ten different Vanderbilt players reached base in the rematch of the 2014 and 2015 College World Series Finals. Vanderbilt shortstop Ethan Paul (3-for-4) finished a triple shy of the cycle and second baseman Austin Martin (3-for-3) scored four runs while finishing a home run shy of the cycle.
“It was a good push early,” Corbin said following the win over Virginia. “We did a nice job with two outs several times. We countered several times, too, which we needed to do.”
Vanderbilt continued its surge against No. 25 Cal State Fullerton. It plated five runs in the first inning, aided by a Philip Clarke grand slam. The Dores ended the day with 14 hits as six Commodores registered a multi-hit game.
The Commodores knocked seven hits in the loss to TCU for a total of 38 on the weekend, a showcase of offense that points to plenty of potential for 2019. Six players recorded hits in at least two of the three contests, and Vanderbilt players recorded multi-RBI games on seven occasions. Clarke had eight RBIs, the most by a Vandy player since at least 2006, and Austin Martin earned SEC Player of the Week honors with his performance. The sophomore Martin went 6-for-10 for an SEC-leading .750 on-base percentage and plated nine runs for the Dores.
Of course, Vanderbilt’s offensive explosion in its first two games made the 10-2 loss to No. 19 TCU that much more frustrating for the Commodores. This week, the program returns to Hawkins Field for a midweek matchup with Evansville on Wednesday (4:30 p.m. SEC Network+) before hosting a three-game series against Pepperdine this weekend.
But Vanderbilt’s trip to Arizona put its potential on offense on full display before a national television audience. Asked whether the Dores have now settled into the spotlight as the nation’s top-ranked team, Corbin shrugged.
“I don’t think so,” Corbin said. “I don’t think it matters one way or the other. We haven’t spent one second talking about what we could be or what we are. We’re just trying to get a point to where we’re trying to get better.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.