Vanderbilt baseball hosting dead dreams as LSU sweeps

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Baseball Vanderbilt entered its three-game series against LSU with a chance to host one more Regional. But on Saturday, the Commodores saw the final home game of the season end in the most gruesome way possible: watching a six-point lead turn into an 11-point deficit with an 11-point eighth inning as Vanderbilt was swept by the Tigers, losing 13-2 Thursday, 8-3 Friday and 21-10 Saturday.

The Commodores (35-19, 14-16 SEC) finish with their first losing conference record since 2009. They were on track to pull themselves out of an early-season slump after winning a road playoff against Georgia and Arkansas, but instead, the late collapse leaves far more questions than answers.

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Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin declined to speak to reporters after Saturday’s loss. Instead, right fielder spencer jones answered for collapse.

“Just realize there’s more important baseball to play,” Jones said. “Losing this series is not the end of the world, there are still games to be played.”

Pitching issues

Eleven pitchers appeared in the series for Vanderbilt and each of them gave up at least one run. Seven of 11 pitchers allowed at least three runs, and two of four who didn’t face fewer than two batters.

No one really had answers for the LSU offense and especially Dylan Crews. The star center back was 7 for 15 with four walks, four home runs and nine RBIs in the series. Outfielder Brayden Jobert added three home runs and second baseman Cade Doughty hit two; finally, the Tigers (37-18, 17-13) hit 11 home runs in the series.

Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin watches his team during the third inning of the game against Tennessee at Hawkins Field on Friday April 1, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The struggles to keep LSU down came to a head on Saturday, when closer Thomas Schultz — who entered the series with a 1.27 ERA and no missed saves — gave up eight runs while recording just two outs. . Grayson Moore, who pitched four midweek innings on Tuesday, and Brett Hansen also struggled to stop the bleeding.

Vanderbilt played shorthanded on the pitching team as left-hander Carter Holton was held off after throwing a 113-shot shutout against Arkansas last Sunday. Holton’s absence led the Commodores to pitch Christian Little on Friday, but Little lasted just 3⅓ innings and allowed six runs. Right-hander Nick Maldonado relieved Little, throwing a career-high 102 pitches. He gave up two runs and struck out eight in 5⅔ innings.

“(Maldonado) gave us good innings,” Corbin said. “I’m happy with what he did. He kept the game balanced…so we would have a chance to catch up.”

Corbin said after Friday’s game that he had “no” regrets dropping Holton from the series.

Freshman left-hander Devin Futrell, making just his second SEC start after moving from the midweek to weekend rotation, struggled uncharacteristically on Thursday, giving up five runs in 1⅓ of an inning.

“It’s just, you know, a kick in the ass,” Corbin said of Thursday’s game. “It happens, we rolled really well. They hit the ball extremely well all night.”

spencer jones strong

Right fielder Spencer Jones had a big streak for Vanderbilt, going 7 for 12 with two walks and four RBIs. He hit two home runs in Saturday’s game, his first career multi-home run game.

After Jones went hitless in a series against Arkansas, his strong week propelled him to lead the team in batting average (.379) and on-base percentage (.468).

Look forward

Vanderbilt starts in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama as the No. 8 seed and will face No. 9 seed Ole Miss (32-21, 14-16) on Tuesday (4:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network). The winner will face No. 1 Tennessee on Wednesday.

The Commodores will be forced to regroup quickly as they prepare for an NCAA Regional.

“Forget it quick,” Jones said. “We know we’re a good team. We’ve been playing good baseball the last two weeks. So I guess that’s one of those things you have to put aside for now and show yourself strong in Hoover.”

Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @aria_gerson.

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