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A Weekend Affair: Vanderbilt Sweeps #24 Ole Miss, Guarantees Eligibility for the NCAA Tournament

On March 23rd, this Vanderbilt team stood at 7-16. They had won just one three-game series in their season (against Rhode Island) and had even suffered a defeat at the hands of the Evansville Purple Aces. In short, the NCAA Tournament looked like a pipe dream for Tim Corbin's rebuilding squad.

That team never gave up, and two months later they're the owners of a 16-14 record in the country's toughest baseball conference.

Vanderbilt sent Will Clinard, Drew Fann, and Riley Reynolds out with a bang in their last games at Hawkins Field, using solid pitching to stifle #24 Ole Miss in a three-game sweep that completed the Commodores' regular season. The victories propelled Vandy to 29-25 on the season and 16-14 in conference play, ensuring a winning record and eligibility for the NCAA Tournament in two weeks.

First, the 'Dores will have the opportunity to pad their resume in Hoover. This weekend's wins gave Vandy the fifth seed in next week's SEC Tournament. To put that in perspective, they were mired in 11th place in the league just over a month ago. In the past four weeks, they've gone 12-3 to rally up the conference standings and into a likely at-large bid when the NCAA's selection committee comes calling.

They'll need to keep that momentum rolling this week in Hoover. Vanderbilt will open the 10-team tournament against Georgia, a team that has proven capable of winning games against the league's top squads. Vanderbilt needed a big comeback to take a pair of games from them earlier in the season. They'll need another big performance to start off their SEC bracket on the right foot.

Here's how Vandy's sweep of Ole Miss happened at Hawkins Field:

Game 1 - Vanderbilt 3, Ole Miss 0: T.J. Pecoraro turned in one of the finest performances of his NCAA career with a complete game shutout to kick things off on Thursday. Pecoraro allowed just five hits on the night in his first win of the season. Anthony Gomez drove in a pair of runs to lead the 'Dores at the plate.

Game 2 - Vanderbilt 6, Ole Miss 2: Sam Selman continued his streak of hot starts with 6.1 shutout innings as Vanderbilt clinched the series victory with a comfortable win Friday night. Selman was able to leave runners stranded throughout the night despite not having his best stuff in the win. Spencer Navin continued his solid season with a two-hit, three RBI performance.

Game 3 - Vanderbilt 6, Ole Miss 3: Will Clinard got a game-saving strikeout to close out his career at the Hawk, fanning Will Allen to lock down the sweep. Allen represented the tying run, but Clinard induced a swinging strikeout to end Vandy's regular season on a high note. Connor Harrell homered and Tony Kemp had four hits (and three runs) in the win.


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

T.J. Pecoraro. Pecoraro put together his finest performance as a Commodore, allowing just five baserunners in a 101-pitch, nine-inning performance. The sophomore has continued to improve as the season wears on, showing off his stamina on Thursday as he rallies back from last year's Tommy John surgery. Vanderbilt has been in need of an ace all season and it may be Pecoraro, a player who entered the season as a complete wild card thanks to elbow troubles, who fills that role for the 'Dores.


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

Anthony Gomez. Gomez, the team's leader in batting average and RBI by a large margin, put together a solid performance at the plate to win his first Haywood award of the season. The junior shortstop batted .455 and accounted for six (three RBI, three runs) of the team's 15 runs this weekend. Gomez's ability to put the ball in play (just 14 strikeouts in 235 plate appearances) makes him an invaluable member at the third spot in the team's lineup. He'll be counted on to lead this team in Hoover as one of their elder statesman, and his experience should play a key role in getting this team through a rough postseason stretch.