College baseball: VU's Harris takes his lumps to get on base

Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 11:30pm

No one can say that Brian Harris won’t take one for the team. On average, in fact, Vanderbilt’s shortstop does so nearly once every game.

Harris, a fifth-year senior out of Montgomery Bell Academy, has been hit by 24 pitches in 34 games this season.

That is the most of anyone in Division I and at least seven more than any other Southeastern Conference player. It also already is three more times than it happened to him in 2009, when Harris was 12th in the country.

“I’m on top of the plate,” he unapologetically says. “It’s something I’ve been comfortable with. I really don’t know … it’s just the way it goes.”

There’s a good chance he’ll add to those numbers this weekend when the 18th-ranked Commodores (27-8, 6-6) host Auburn (23-11, 7-5) in a three-game series at Hawkins Field. Game times are 6 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Tigers’ pitchers have hit 34 batters, which is tied for the fourth highest total among SEC teams.

The combination of Harris getting plunked, his 32 walks and 37 hits have given him a .574 on-base percentage, which is second in the conference behind Alabama’s Taylor Dugas (.577).

It also has given his coach a few tense moments, such as two weeks ago at Florida when he was hit in the face during the Saturday contest. Even so, Tim Corbin has not tried to convince Harris, who stayed in that game at Florida, to move away from the plate.

“It’s part of his game,” Corbin said. “He likes to pull the ball … so he stands on the plate.”

And he does so without any sort of elbow pads, arm guards, rib protectors or any sort of face shield.

“People have given me things to wear,” he said. “It’s just not comfortable.

“I have to do anything I can to get on base. That’s just something where it’s just another aspect of the game.”

A look at other local college baseball action scheduled for this weekend:

Atlantic Sun Conference

• Lipscomb (12-22, 4-5) vs. Florida Gulf Coast (21-11, 12-3), Ken Dugan Field, Nashville
Game times: 6 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. Saturday, Noon Sunday

Friday’s starting pitchers are Lipscomb’s Josh Smith and FGC’s Chris Sale, who are first and second, respectively, in strikeouts in the A-Sun. Smith (6-1) also leads the league in wins. Sale (5-0) is first in ERA with a 1.41.

• Belmont (17-18, 5-7) vs. Stetson (19-16, 7-2), Shelby Park, Nashville
Game times: 4 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. Saturday (doubleheader)

Bruins’ junior relief pitcher John Ivie was named to the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association ‘Stopper of the Year’ watch list on Thursday. Ivie leads the A-Sun and is 10th in the nation with seven saves. He has not allowed a run in his last eight appearances.

TranSouth Athletic Conference

• Trevecca Nazarene (25-14, 4-5) vs. Lyon (21-15, 3-6), Scots Baseball Field, Batesville, Arkansas
Game times: 3 p.m. Friday; Noon Saturday (doubleheader)

TNU’s Matt Tidwell, a sophomore centerfielder, has had multiple hits in six of his last seven games. Overall, he has gone 17-for-30 (.567) over that stretch and has raised his team-leading batting average to .447.

Sun Belt Conference

• Middle Tennessee State (20-13, 9-6) vs. Troy (16-16, 4-8), Riddle-Pace Field, Troy, Alabama
Game times: 6 p.m. Friday; 6 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday

This is a matchup between the top two home run hitting teams in the conference. MTSU has 53, Troy has 50 and no other Sun Belt team has more than 33. Blue Raiders’ juniors Will Skinner and Justin Miller each have hit 12 and are two of three players tied for the conference lead.