It's not fun watching your team lose. It's especially not fun watching your team lose when you expect them to win. This weekend spoke a lot for LSU, but it also spoke a lot for Vanderbilt. We're in that part of the season now where we start to ask ourselves when we're losing a big series on the road, are we still up for this?
GAME ONE: Vanderbilt 4, LSU 13
Thursday, April 7
Jordan Sheffield hit a little road bump in his start on Thursday night as he allowed nine runs, seven earned, on seven hits in only three innings to start the weekend off. LSU jumped on him early scoring one run in the first two innings before jumping to seven runs in the third. Vanderbilt didn't score at all until the ninth inning but by then, LSU had tacked on their 13th run and the game was over after the third. Vanderbilt's fielders allowed four errors on the night while only accumulating nine hits in the lineup, while LSU put up 15 hits. (I think it's safe to say LSU's offensive "funk" is over.)
GAME TWO: Vanderbilt 2, LSU 3
Friday, April 8
Friday offered a little more relief as Kyle Wright limited the LSU damage to only three runs in the second inning, while they accumulated 10 hits over the course of the game. Seven of those 10 hits came off Kyle Wright himself, and only one of the three runs allowed was earned. Wright struck out seven LSU batters in a better start than Vanderbilt had Thursday night, but unfortunately, the Commodores could't overcome. Not even in the ninth inning when it looked like Vanderbilt might come through, although there was some late-inning excitement, it was quickly stifled by LSU.
Vanderbilt committed three errors in the loss while only scoring once in the first and again in the sixth.
GAME THREE: Vanderbilt 9, LSU 7
Saturday, April 9
Saturday's game had the outcome a little more familiar to Vandy fans, coming out on top with some late-inning heroics and killing any hope of a Tiger comeback. The only thing different about this game compared to a typical Vandy-style victory is this win didn't come with a quality start followed by an inning or two in relief. Instead, this game took six pitchers, some more successful than others, before finally settling down for Raby who got the win and Bowden who got the save. Hayden Stone started the game throwing three innings and allowing three runs on five hits, before giving way to K-Chow, who allowed two runs on two hits in 1.1 innings. The next two outs were hard to come by as Matt Ruppenthal allowed two runs on a couple walks, and Collin Snider only allowed two hits before getting out of the four-run fifth for LSU. Raby and Bowden kept the last four innings scoreless, each throwing two innings, to maintain a victory as the pitching staff allowed 11 hits from the LSU lineup.
For Vanderbilt, Jeren Kendall, Bryan Reynolds and Tyler Campbell led the offense combining for nine hits, seven RBI and seven runs scored. The entire Vandy lineup scored nine runs on 14 hits.
LSU was in an offensive funk before last weekend. LSU was in an offensive funk, and they were still ranked #14. LSU is not a bad baseball team, and playing in Alex Box Stadium is not an easy place to win. Still, Vanderbilt allowed four errors on Thursday night and three errors on Friday night. These errors cannot happen for Vanderbilt. Allowing 10+ hits for LSU in each game cannot happen for Vanderbilt while we only get five hits in game two. Yes, we can confidently say that LSU is no longer in a funk, and that Alex Box Stadium is an intimidating environment in which to play. But Vanderbilt can overcome all of that. And they didn't.
Player of the Week: Jeren Kendall
It was a close race but Jeren Kendall got the photo finish for Player of the Week honors this week, as he had the most offensive output, just outshining Bryan Reynolds on the weekend. Other notable names in the contest were Tyler Campbell and Ro Coleman for his pinch-hitting performances this weekend. Kendall went six-for-13 with five RBI and four runs scored on the weekend. Bryan Reynolds went five-for-nine with five RIB and two runs scored. While Reynolds may have been slightly more patient at the plate, the pair were responsible for the majority of the runs batted in for Vanderbilt. Kendall ran in four batters on Saturday while Reynolds ran in three. They were also the most productive bats in the lineup during Thursday's and Friday's losses, as well.
Pitcher of the Week: Patrick Raby
Even though Ben Bowden came in for relief twice, first on Friday for an inning of relief and again on Saturday to pick up his sixth save, I'm giving this honor to Patrick Raby, who picked up the only Vanderbilt win this weekend. He threw only two innings and struck out two, but LSU can easily come from behind in the mid-to-late innings, similar to Vanderbilt. Raby and Bowden were solid pitching in a bleak time for Vanderbilt who very much needed a victory on Saturday. Kyle Wright pitched well considering his opponent, and comparing to his fellow starters for the weekend, but Vanderbilt just couldn't come out with a win on Friday. Sorry, Kyle.
Vanderbilt plays at home against MTSU tonight (Tuesday, April 12) at 6:30 pm. The game will be aired on SECN+. This weekend, the Kentucky Wildcats come to Nashville to play a home series against Vanderbilt, with a usual Friday-Saturday-Sunday series beginning at 6:30 on April 15, 2:00 on April 16, and 1:00 on April 17. Friday and Saturday's games will be aired on SECN+.