College baseball weekend: Gomez is VU's top hitter in more ways than one

Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 10:14pm

Anthony Gomez has been one of Vanderbilt’s top hitters all season.

Even so, the freshman infielder never thought to look for his name at the top of the lineup prior to a recent game against Auburn. Yet there it was.

“I walked into the locker room for the game (on April 18) and saw I wasn’t batting in the 9-hole,” Gomez said. “So I just kind of walked past and thought, ‘OK, I guess I’m sitting out today.’

“Then it was like, ‘Oh, whoa. That’s a little different.”

It was the first of five consecutive games that Gomez hit in that spot. In those contests he went 7-for-21 (.333), scored six runs and drove in four. Vanderbilt won three of the five. Tuesday at Austin Peay he was moved to second behind Brian Harris, who has been the leadoff hitter most of the season.

Prior to the Auburn game, Gomez typically was at or near the bottom of the lineup. His consistent production finally made it impossible for coach Tim Corbin to leave him there.

“The kid was batting well over .400 so I just needed to have him step to the forefront a little bit and see how he would handle it,” coach Tim Corbin said. “He’s handled it well.”

In 38 appearances (29 starts) heading into this weekend’s Southeastern Conference series against Georgia has batted .430. His 49 hits are fourth on the team, yet he is seventh in at-bats with at least 25 fewer than any of the top six.

He is the only VU player batting better than .300 in conference play – and at .386 he’s well over that mark.

“I didn’t know he was a good hitter,” Corbin said. “I thought defense was his tool, and he plays pretty good defense. But what he is moreso than a defender or an offensive player is he’s a very good competitor. He gets into a game and he competes well. He’s not intimidated by anything, and he’s got a very good mentality for any game. He’s a good, good competitor.”

Gomez enters this weekend’s series against Georgia (games are 6 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Hawkins Field) short on at-bats to qualify for the conference leaders. Assuming he stays healthy and in the lineup, he’ll eventually be there.

It’s been five years since the last time a Vanderbilt player hit better than .400 for a season. That was when second baseman Warner Jones batted .414 in 2004.

“I try not to think about (.400) … but I hear from people all the time,” he said. “So it’s kind of something that’s always in the back of your mind, as much as you don’t want it to be.”

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

Atlantic Sun Conference

• Belmont (20-24, 7-11) vs. North Florida (22-18, 10-5), Shelby Park, Nashville
Game times: noon Saturday (doubleheader); 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Bruins are 6-2 in games of the four A-Sun doubleheaders they have played. Most recently they swept Stetson (13-3 and 14-4) on April 7. They have just one conference victory on days with a single contest.

• Lipscomb (14-28, 5-10) vs. Jacksonville (19-17, 9-6), Ken Dugan Field, Nashville
Game times: 6 p.m. Friday; 6 p.m. Saturday; noon Sunday

Coach Jeff Forehand will attempt to win his 100th game at the university for the second consecutive weekend. Forehand’s 99th win April 21 over UT-Martin. The Bisons then were swept last weekend at Stetson and did not have a mid-week game this week.

TranSouth Athletic Conference

• Trevecca Nazarene (28-19, 6-9) vs. Union (33-12, 10-4), Jackson Field, Nashville
Game times: 2 p.m. Friday; noon Saturday (doubleheader)

Kyle Pfirrman threw his first complete game of the season last Friday in a 14-3, 7-inning victory over Freed-Hardeman. He allowed seven hits and three walks, and he struck out five. The junior transfer from North Carolina-Charlotte has a team-high 59 strikeouts in 60.2 innings.

Sun Belt Conference

• Middle Tennessee State (26-15, 14-7) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (25-16, 10-8), M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field, Lafayette, Louisiana
Game times: 6 p.m. Friday; 6 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday

Senior Blake McDade has moved to third on the school’s career hits list with 177. The last of those was an eighth-inning grand slam, which lifted the Blue Raiders to a 12-9 victory and a sweep of Arkansas-Little Rock on Sunday. McDade has a .518 on-base percentage and early in the season reached base in 13 straight plate appearances.