Disaster loomed for the Commodores headed into Sunday. Not only had they lost the first two games of their weekend series in Gainesville, but they also lost redshirt freshman reliever Corey Williams to the most badass play of the season. Facing long odds against a potent offense, Vanderbilt shut down the Gators for nine innings, taking a 7-0 decision and salvaging their weekend.
The win improved Vanderbilt's record on the week to 3-2, with two of the wins coming against lowly Wofford in a home series. The clash with Florida offered fans one tight game and two easy victories as the two best teams in the SEC East battled each other. The series loss dropped Vanderbilt from #17 to #19 in the USA Today polls, and bumped Florida from #11 to #9, showcasing the strength of an extremely deep SEC in college baseball play. The losses moved Vanderbilt into third place in the East, while Florida moved into second behind next weekend's opponent South Carolina.
Game three starter Jack Armstrong hit another peak in his up and down season, taking the win against Florida with six shutout innings. Ace starter Sonny Gray took a hard luck decision in the series opener despite 6.1 strong innings and seven strikeouts. At the plate, the Commodores were affected by the continued absence of Curt Casali, scoring just four runs per game in the series with the Gator, over four runs under their season average. However, strong performances from Anthony Gomez, Jason Esposito, and Andrew Giobbi helped keep the team competitive at the plate.
Game A - Vanderbilt 7, Wofford 2: Wofford went up 1-0 after their at-bat in the second inning, and trailed fbig rom that point on. The 'Dores jumped all over the Terriers in the second and third innings to cruise to a five run win. Will Clinard struck out five batters in four innings of relief to pick up the win, facing just one batter over the maximum. Andrew Giobbi was beastly at the plate, going 4-for-4 with four RBI and a home run.
Game B - Vanderbilt 10, Wofford 7: Vanderbilt jumped on Wofford starter John Cornely for four runs in the first inning, and then added five more to take a commanding 9-1 lead after four innings. Drew Hayes and Taylor Hill recorded their first sub-par outings of the season, but fortunately Russell Brewer was there to quell the Terrier rally and push his scoreless inning streak to 16. Brian Harris and Jason Esposito had three RBI each for the 'Dores.
Game 1 - Florida 3, Vanderbilt 2: Vanderbilt clung to a 1-0 lead through five innings, but Sonny Gray and Richie Goodenow couldn't silence Florida's potent bats to hang on to the lead. Gray walked Nolan Fantana in the seventh, leading to Goodenow's appearance in relief. Unfortunately, the junior reliever couldn't close out the game, allowing a home run to the first batter he faced, Matt den Dekker. Though the 'Dores cut the lead to 3-2 in the eighth and put two runners aboard in the ninth, they were unable to complete the comeback and fell in game one.
More recaps and AoG's prestigious pitching and batting awards after the jump...
Game 2 - Florida 7, Vanderbilt 3: Taylor Hill put together his second weak performance, allowing six runs (five earned) in five innings of work. Aaron Westlake and Joe Loftus brought the offense for the 'Dores, contributing two home runs and all three of the team's EBI.
Game 3 - Vanderbilt 7, Florida 0: The 'Dores got their first win in Gainesville behind nasty pitching and a potent offense. Jack Armstrong spun six hard innings to go 4-0 on the season and drop his ERA to 3.93. Jason Esposito had two solo home runs to claim the team lead with seven. The win salvaged the team's +.500 record in league play, which will be under fire again next weekend against division leader South Carolina.
The Henry Rowengartner Hot-Ice Excellence in Pitching Award Goes to...
Jack Armstrong. Armstrong, the rotation's x-factor, is as talented as nearly any other pitcher in the SEC. However, consistency has been his biggest concern for the season. However, with the chips down, he threw six shutout innings to give the Commodores a win when they needed it the most. Armstrong is the man that the 'Dores turn to on Sundays to close out series, and if he can work like he did against Florida on the road, he'll be able to almost single handedly turn around a series. Though the three walks in six innings is a bit worrisome, it's tough to poke holes in a start that otherwise shut down a top ten ranked team.
The Clu Haywood "How's your wife and my kids?" Destroyer of Pitchers Award Goes to...
Jason Esposito. Esposito continued his assault on the top of the SEC's statistical leaderboard with another monster week. Andrew Giobbi put together a solid week as well, but Espo's power set him apart. The sophomore third baseman went deep twice, scored six runs and had five RBI in five games. He also played error-less ball at the hot corner. Based on the strength of his 2010 campaign so far, Esposito is looking like a possible All-American. He's batting .350 and currently has more runs (32) and RBI (34) than games played. The 'Dores expected a lot from their sophomore prospect in 2010, but few could have predicted this massive production from the Connecticut native.
So, there's your recap. Award winners can pick up their custom-made plaques at the AoG main offices located at Nashville's nearest Zaxby's in Franklin, Kentucky. The Commodores struggled, but much like the Alabama series, they put their stamp on the final game of the series to salvage their record. They'll get a brief rest with just one weekday game before hosting #17 South Carolina in yet another pivotal SEC East showdown. Curt Casali remains questionable after just one pinch-hit appearance in the past week. He'll likely use the Belmont game to rest his balky hamstring before the USC series. His presence would be a major boost for the 'Dores against yet another top opponent. If he can't go, however, look for guys like Espo and Giobbi to continue raking at the the plate to spur the offense.
vs. Belmont , April 6 - 6:00 PM
vs. #17 South Carolina