Derek Johnson knows – in more ways than one – that Andrew Giobbi can make a call.
“It seems like he’s No. 1 on my speed dial lately,” Giobbi said. “He and I communicate very well. … I’ll call him at midnight and wake his kids up if that’s how it has to be.”
The reason there’s so much dialogue between the two is that Giobbi, a fifth-year senior catcher, is the one who call pitches for Vanderbilt during games. Up until the mid-point of last season, that job belonged to Johnson, the Commodores’ pitching coach.
“It got to the point last year where I could pretty much call what he was going to call anyway,” Giobbi said. “So we sat down and talked about it and I think it’s worked out pretty well.”
It’s worked out well enough that 18th-ranked Vanderbilt (23-4, 4-2) takes an SEC-best 3.02 team ERA into this weekend’s critical series at No. 12 Florida (18-6, 4-2).
Two weeks into conference play there already is a divide in the SEC’s East Division with the Commodores and Gators tied for second, one game behind South Carolina. The other three teams in the division (Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee) have a combined two conference victories.
“Gio is a fifth-year guy, he has some experience and he understands what’s going on, he understands the pitching staff,” coach Tim Corbin said. “And he does a good job. D.J. allows him to do that. If D.J. wants a pitch, he’ll call him off, but in most cases – I’d say 90 percent of the time – Gio is calling the game with an understanding of what he has to do.”
Vanderbilt and Florida will play a three-game series (5:30 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday) at McKethan Stadium, which has not been very welcoming to the Commodores in recent years. They were swept on their last visit (2008) although the total difference in runs that weekend was four. Since 2004, they have won just two of nine there.
“Florida is going to be a challenge for us,” senior shortstop Brian Harris said. “They’re a good team, and we know that. We’re going to do our best and give them our best shot.”
Atlantic Sun Conference
• Belmont (15-11, 4-5) at Kennesaw State (11-16, 2-4), 5 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. Friday (doubleheader).
Sophomore center fielder Dylan Craig carries a 17-game hitting streak into the series.
• Lipscomb (7-18) vs. Illinois State (13-10), 6 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday (doubleheader).
The Bisons attempt to get over the disappointment of a 21-20 loss (in 12 innings) Wednesday at MTSU – their sixth straight defeat against non-conference opponents – and a three-game set against another non-conference foe.
TranSouth Athletic Conference
• Trevecca Nazarene (21-10, 1-2) vs. Mid-Continent (7-17, 1-2), noon Friday (doubleheader), noon Saturday.
Trevecca plays its first conference series without ace Tim Dunn (4-2, 1.61) who is out with an injury. Either Michael Son (4-0, 1.80) or Kyle Pfirrman (4-3, 4.14) will take Dunn’s spot at the top of the rotation.
Sun Belt Conference
• Middle Tennessee State (16-9, 5-4) at Florida Atlantic (15-9, 6-3), 5:30 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday.
All-American outfielder Bryce Brentz, the school’s all-time home run leader, did not make the trip due to a tress fracture in his right ankle. Brentz is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks.