It wasn't the cakewalk that we expected it to be, but it still counts as three wins. Vanderbilt got all they could handle from an underrated Brown squad in this weekend's series, squeaking out three close victories at Hawkins Field. The Bears took Vandy to the wire in both games of Sunday's doubleheader and refused to be intimidated in what was Brown's season opener.
Brown had a couple of good chances to upset a mistake-laden Vanderbilt team on Sunday, as errors and unearned runs nearly sank the Commodores in both games of a weather-induced doubleheader. Brown scored eight runs over the pair of games, but only two were earned thanks to five Vandy errors. Fortunately, clutch hitting kept the 'Dores from embarrassing losses.
Vanderbilt was lifted by their stars in the series, getting big performances from some of the players that have gained significant national attention. Sonny Gray was the weekend's star, striking out 15 batters in a complete game, three-hit performance on Friday. The junior was dominant on the mound against the overmatched Bears, owning the strike zone and even recording his third pick-off of the season at first base. Offensively, All-American Aaron Westlake fueled Vandy with a seven hit performance.
Game 0 - Vanderbilt 5, Western Kentucky 4: Late inning heroics propelled the 'Dores to a comeback win at Hawkins Field on Tuesday. Vanderbilt had an early 4-0 lead erased when the Hilltoppers put up five runs in the top of the fourth inning, and looked to be cooked after leaving the bases loaded in the eighth while trailing by one. However, a Tony Kemp walk with the bases loaded forced in the tying run with two outs, and pinch runner Sonny Gray scored on a wild pitch soon after to lift Vandy to victory. Navery Moore got the win in relief, but Kevin Ziomek's shutdown performance in the middle innings (3.1 IP, 6 K) kept the Commodores in this one.
Game 1 - Vanderbilt 3, Brown 1: Sonny Gray was dominant and that's almost all the Commodores needed in the series opener against the Bears. Gray struck out 15 batters over nine complete innings and Anthony Gomez had two RBI in the win.
Game 2 - Vanderbilt 6, Brown 5: Four errors nearly doomed the 'Dores, but Navery Moore took matters into his own hands to close out Brown in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader. The Bears threatened with four runs in the final two innings - all unearned - but Moore ensured the win with a key strikeout to finish the game. Grayson Garvin picked up the win with five solid innings of work, while Aaron Westlake had a pair of RBI for Vanderbilt.
Game 3 - Vanderbilt 6, Brown 3: Vandy trailed 3-1 in the fifth inning of a seven-inning game, and was on the ropes before rallying to earn the win. For the second time in four games, the 'Dores scored the tying run on a bases loaded walk and took the lead on a wild pitch immediately after - in this case, giving Vanderbilt a decisive lead. Corey Williams closed out the seventh for the save, while Mark Lamm picked up his third win in relief on the season.
AoG's prestigious awards are handed out...after the jump.
The Henry Rowengartner Hot-Ice Excellence in Pitching Award Goes to...
Sonny Gray. 15 strikeouts, zero walks. Yeah, that'll do it.
The Clu Haywood "How's your wife and my kids?" Destroyer of Pitchers Award Goes to...
Aaron Westlake. Westy picks up his second Haywood award in a row after recording nine hits and 15 total bases in just four games at Hawkins Field. Westlake has exceeded expectations early in the season, batting .429 with two home runs, four doubles, and eight RBI in 12 games so far. The redshirt junior will be this team's rock in the middle of the lineup, and he should get plenty of chances to see solid pitches with guys like Jason Esposito, Conrad Gregor, and Connor Harrell around him.
So, there's your recap. Award winners can pick up their custom-made AoG plaques at our headquarters located in the Arkansas student section at the SEC Basketball Tournament (don't judge - the Vanderbilt section is sold out). Brown was a much tougher opponent than most of us realized, but the biggest threats this weekend came from the team's own mistakes. These things are excusable in March, but if Vandy pulls out a four error, four unearned run performance in the SEC in May, the final outcome will be much different.
vs. Wofford, March 8