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A Weekend Affair: #17 'Dores Can't Put Away the Vols, Drop Two Close Games in Knoxville

Image blatantly stolen from BarcaBlog. Thanks Jimmy Jones!
Image blatantly stolen from BarcaBlog. Thanks Jimmy Jones!

When the rain had stopped Sunday morning, it had already washed away the Commodores chances of victory. Despite a dominant 10-1 win in Game One, Vanderbilt couldn't get it done in Sunday's doubleheader, dropping a pair of games to the rival Volunteers to give Tennessee the series victory. Despite the losses, Vandy closed out the week with a 3-2 record and dropped only two spots in the USA Today poll to #17 in the country.

The week was going well for the Commodores until the rain hit Saturday, postponing Game Two of the series with Tennessee until Sunday, when disaster struck. After handling Lipscomb, Middle Tennessee, and Tennessee in their first three games, the 'Dores couldn't pull out wins in Sunday's doubleheader, losing 4-2 in 11 innings and 4-3 to seal the series. The losses dropped Vanderbilt to 9-9 in the SEC and into seventh place overall in the conference. A sweep would have propelled the team into a tie for third.

Interestingly, the Volunteers showed signs of life after the ejections of Sonny Gray and Tim Corbin on Friday night. The Vols outscored their rivals 8-5 in the final two games after trailing 10-1 before Gray drilled Zach Osbourne to lead off the eighth inning. Gray's actions were in retaliation after Connor Harrell's plunking in the top of the inning - the fifth Vanderbilt batter  to be hit by a pitch of the game. While Tennessee escaped any disciplinary action, the 'Dores lost Corbin for one game and Gray for four - and apparently the momentum in the series as well.

Game A - Vanderbilt 13, Lipscomb 10: Vanderbilt dug themselves out of a 3-0 hole in the first inning to take a 13-6 lead, and then held on in a wild ninth inning as the Bison threatened with four runs. Drew Hayes picked up the win in a rough outing, pushing his ERA to 5.17 but his record to 5-0. Jason Esposito led the team with four hits, five RBI, two stolen bases, and a home run.

Game B - Vanderbilt 11, Middle Tennessee State 10: For the second game in a row the Commodores fell into a 0-3 hole, only to come back strong and then hang on for a victory. Russell Brewer's streak of scoreless inning was snapped as he allowed three runs and five hits over the final two frames, but he was still able to hold on and record the save for the 'Dores by striking out Justin Acker with the potential winning run on first base. Aaron Westlake hit his third home run of the season while eight different Vanderbilt batters had RBIs.

Game 1 - Vanderbilt 10, Tennessee 1: Sonny Gray struck out 10 batters before being ejected as the 'Dores cruised to an opening game victory against the rival Volunteers. Gray picked up his sixth win on the season while lowering his ERA to 2.22 and raising his K:IP ratio to 72:69. The 'Dores used a balanced attack and Tennessee mistakes to pounce on the Volunteers, who only mustered three hits in the game. Aaron Westlake and Connor Harrell each had four RBI.

More recaps and AoG's prestigious batting and pitching awards, coming up after the jump...

Game 2 - Tennessee 4, Vanderbilt 2 (11 innings): The first game of Sunday's doubleheader went into extra innings as the Vols came out on top after Blake Forsythe's two run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning. The game had only been scheduled for seven innings as a make up for Saturday's rained out affair, and it appeared that the 'Dores had swung the momentum by rallying to tie the game on Curt Casali's leadoff home run in the seventh. However, Russell Brewer couldn't keep Tennessee silent, as Forsythe hit a blast with two outs to even up the series. Vanderbilt only managed one baserunner (via walk) over the four extra frames.

Game 3 - Tennessee 4, Vanderbilt 3: Vandy dropped another close game as Tennessee rallied to win the series. In another seven inning affair, the Commodores couldn't hold on to a 3-2 lead as the Vols made a furious two-out rally. After Taylor Hill retired the first two batters of the final inning, a single to center proved to be his final pitch. Grayson Garvin walked a batter and allowed a single that, aided by a throwing error, scored the tying run. Drew Hayes came in to extend the game, but walked a batter and then hit another UT player at the plate to bring home the winning run. Joe Loftus had two RBI for the 'Dores.


The Henry Rowengartner Hot-Ice Excellence in Pitching Award Goes to...

Sonny Gray. Struck out ten batters and got both the win and an ejection, or as we call it back home, The Warwick Double-Dip*. Gray was the week's hero, getting the only win and sending a message that he won't be backed down on the mound and that he'll stand up for his teammates. Unfortunately, the heat from Friday's incident seemed to fire up the Volunteers more than the Commodores. Sonny will probably be making an unorthodox Saturday start while his suspension wears down, which should make the coming series with Georgia a bit more interesting.


The Clu Haywood "How's your wife and my kids?" Destroyer of Pitchers Award Goes to...

Aaron Westlake. And to think, last week I thought Westlake was mired in a slump. Westlake and Jason Esposito (seven RBI, five stolen bases) came up big offensively this week (and were aided by a finally healthy-looking Curt Casali), but Westlake wins the award for a blistering average (.476) and consistent performance. The big Californian raised his average to .309 and clubbed his seventh home run of the year. The team will need Westlake, Esposito, Casali, and Andrew Giobbi to all start peaking at the end of the season to give the 'Dores a murderers' row in the middle of the batting order.

So, there's your recap. Award winners can pick up their custom-made plaques at the AoG main offices located at mile seven of the Music City Half Marathon, doling out free high fives to all runners (and finger points to walkers). It was a rough week for the Commodores, as most fans expected at least a series win in Knoxville if not a sweep. The sting of two straight games lost in walk-off fashion has to have left a bitter taste in the mouths of the players, and let's hope that they unleash some aggression on a pair of weaker teams in Austin Peay and Georgia this week. For now, the team is playing to boost their seeding for the SEC Tournament, and three wins against league foe Georgia would be a major boost.

Next Games:

at Austin Peay, April 27  - 6:00 PM

Weekend Series:

vs. Georgia (12-28, 3-15 SEC)...This had better be a sweep, 'Dores...

*The Warwick Double Dip is not a real thing.