Vanderbilt couldn’t outhit Mother Nature.
Up 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the opener of the Commodores’ three-game series against Florida was put on hold thanks to a consistent downpour that soaked Hawkins Field Friday night. After a 64-minute delay, the game was suspended and will resume at 1 p.m. Saturday, with the second game to follow 40 minutes after.
Even though the game is official (at least five innings were played), Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said by Southeastern Conference rule the game must be suspended and finished.
“When you’ve got three days to play you have to try to get all your games in,” Corbin said. “If it was a Sunday game, then we would be leaving here with a win. But that is just an SEC rule.”
The weather, however, could once again throw a wrench into Saturday, too. Scattered thunderstorms with a 40 percent chance of precipitation are forecast so the windows of opportunity to get three-plus innings and a nine-inning game in could be small.
If No. 1 Vanderbilt (41-6, 19-5) and No. 6 Florida (37-12, 18-6) don’t get any baseball in on Saturday, then on Sunday the teams would resume Friday’s suspended contest and play a seven-inning game. Because of a Sunday travel curfew, an inning can’t start after 4 p.m. There is also a 30 percent chance of rain on Sunday.
“There is nothing to do about what the Big Man wants to do with this weather,” Corbin said. “We will just have to move it to [Saturday] and try to get in this one first and try to get in the next one after that.”
Tied 1-1 heading into the bottom of the third inning, Vanderbilt scored three runs – all with two outs. Jason Esposito knocked in his second run of the game when he fisted a soft hit to shallow right field to score Anthony Gomez. After an infield bloop single by Mike Yastrzemski, Esposito scored when Florida third baseman Jeff Moyer failed to catch a liner hit right at him by Curt Casali. Conrad Gregor then singled home Yastrzemski with no throw coming from left fielder Daniel Pigott, who bobbled the ball after fielding it.
The Commodores had eight hits and scored two earned runs against Florida starter Hudson Randall, who entered with an 8-2 record an a 2.05 ERA.
“They found a way to string some hits together with two outs,” Corbin said of his team. “We earned those runs right there. [Randall] is a tough customer.”
In the top of the fifth inning, Vanderbilt ace Sonny Gray got into a jam. An error by Esposito at third, a bouncing single through the infield and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out. Gray struck out Bryson Smith swinging, but then hit Preston Tucker on the elbow to allow a run to score. He kept the inning from getting worse, however, when he struck out Mike Zunino looking with a curveball on the corner of the plate.
“I thought he was pretty clutch in that moment,” Corbin said. “He whittled himself out of it and that has kind of been his deal during the course of the year. He is a clutch pitcher when the inning gets to that point right there. But he made two great pitches on two very good hitters and minimized damage.”
Gray (9-3) threw 84 pitches in six innings, allowing just two hits, one earned run, a walk and four strikeouts – pushing his season total to 99. Corbin said he’ll have either T.J. Pecoraro (6-0, 1.39 ERA) or Kevin Ziomek (2-0, 2.08 ERA) — both freshmen — pick up where Gray left off.