Vanderbilt baseball hosting dreams dead as LSU sweeps
Vanderbilt Baseball came into its three-game streak against LSU with a chance to host another regional league. But on Saturday, the Commodores watched the final home game of the season end in the most horrific way: They watched a six-run lead turn into an 11-run deficit with an 11-run eighth inning as Vanderbilt The Tigers were swept past, losing 13:2 on Thursday, 8:3 on Friday and 21:10 on Saturday.
The Commodores (35-19, 14-16 SEC) finish with their first conference loss since 2009. They were on track to bounce back from a slump earlier in the season after winning road series against Georgia and Arkansas , but instead the late collapse far behind leaves more questions than answers.
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Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin declined to speak to reporters after Saturday’s loss. Instead, right fielder Spencer Jones answered for the collapse.
“You just have to realize that there are more important baseball games to play,” Jones said. “Losing this streak is not the end of the world, there are more games to play.”
Eleven pitchers competed for Vanderbilt in the series, and every single one of them gave up at least one run. Seven of the 11 pitchers gave up at least three runs, and two of the four who faced no fewer than two batsmen.
No one really had answers about LSU’s offense, and Dylan Crews in particular. The star center fielder was 7-for-15 with four walks, four homers, and nine RBIs in the streak. Outfielder Brayden Jobert added three home runs of his own and second baseman Cade Doughty hit two; Ultimately, the Tigers (37-18, 17-13) hit 11 home runs in the series.
The battles to keep LSU down came to a head on Saturday when closer Thomas Schultz — who came into the series with a 1.27 ERA and no missed saves — gave up eight runs while recording just two outs. Grayson Moore, who pitched four innings midweek Tuesday, and Brett Hansen also struggled to stem the bleeding.
Vanderbilt was understaffed on the pitching staff when left-hander Carter Holton was rested after a 113-pitch complete-game shutout against Arkansas last Sunday. Holton’s absence resulted in the Commodores starting Christian Little on Friday, but Little lasted only 3⅓ innings and gave up six runs. Right-hander Nick Maldonado replaced Little and threw a career-high 102 pitches. He gave up two runs and hit eight in 5⅔ innings.
“[Maldonado]gave us a couple of good innings,” Corbin said. “I’m happy with what he did. He kept the game balanced…so we had a chance to catch up.”
Corbin said after Friday’s game that he had “zero” regrets for dropping Holton from the series.
On Thursday, freshman left-hander Devin Futrell, just making his second SEC start after switching from midweek to weekend rotation, had unusual troubles, giving up five runs in 1⅓ innings.
“It’s just a kick in the ass,” Corbin said of Thursday’s game. “Sometimes we just got rolled really well. They hit the ball really well all night.”
Spencer Jones strong
Right fielder Spencer Jones had a great streak for Vanderbilt, going 7-for-12 with two walks and four RBIs. He hit two home runs in Saturday’s game, his first multi-home run game of his career.
After Jones was unsuccessful in a series against Arkansas, his strong week put him at the top of the team in batting average (.379) and on-base percentage (.468).
Vanderbilt will start the SEC tournament in Hoover, Alabama, as the No. 8 seed and will face No. 9 seed Ole Miss (32-21, 14-16) on Tuesday (4:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network). The winner plays against No. 1 Tennessee.
The Commodores will be forced to quickly regroup as they prepare for an NCAA regional game.
“Forget it quick,” Jones said. “We know we are a good team. We’ve played good baseball for the past few weeks. I think it’s one of those things that you just have to put aside and just show strong in Hoover.”