SEC baseball notes: Road to a repeat gets easier for 'Dores

Thursday, May 22, 2008 at 1:12am
Vanderbilt's Alex Feinberg slides safely into home Wednesday as Florida catcher Hampton Tignor awaits the throw. [Neil Brake for The City Paper.]

HOOVER, Ala. – Vanderbilt’s road to repeating as Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament champion was made smoother Wednesday after the Commodores beat Florida 7-3 in first-round play at Regions Park.

Last year, the Commodores lost to Tennessee in the opening game and were forced to win an unprecedented five straight games before being crowned.

By winning Wednesday, VU could conceivably repeat in only four games. The championship game will be played Sunday.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said the importance of a first-day victory can’t be overstated.

“You get to stay in the winners bracket,” he said. “It’s the difference between playing four games and six games. We’ve done both, and I like the first option.”

Vanderbilt’s 2007 squad is the only team since 1995 to win the SEC Tournament championship after losing in the first round.

FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: Vanderbilt has won six straight SEC Tournament games at cavernous Regions Park, which has foul lines of 340 feet.

The Commodores said the park’s similarities to Vanderbilt’s Hawkins Field comes in handy at tournament time.

“It’s a really big park, similar to ours,” outfielder Dominic de la Osa said. “You have to hit a lot of line drives and keep the ball low. The ball doesn’t go out here too much.”

Vanderbilt recorded 14 singles Wednesday but had no extra-base hits. It marked the team’s second-highest hit total in a game this season without a home run.

NO HARD FEELINGS: Vanderbilt second baseman Alex Feinberg and Ole Miss pitcher Lance Lynn exchanged a few friendly words Wednesday as the Commodores left the field and the Rebels were preparing to play Georgia.

Feinberg suffered a broken jaw, requiring his mouth to be wired shut, after being hit by a Lynn fastball on April 5 in Oxford, Miss.

“He just asked me how I’m doing,” Feinberg said. “It was friendly. I’m not mad at him or anything. It’s part of the game.”

Feinberg missed only four games but has worn a protective facemask on his batting helmet since returning to action. He estimates his jaw to be “90 percent” healed.

HELPING HAND: Combined, Vanderbilt got eight hits from its Nos. 6, 7 and 9 hitters Wednesday: outfielder Steven Liddle and first baseman Andrew Giobbi had three each, and designated hitter Jonathan White added two.

Liddle, a Franklin High product, and Giobbi matched their career highs.

RED HOT: LSU, Vanderbilt's second-round opponent Thursday, has won 17 straight games and swept four straight SEC series to close the regular season.

The surging Tigers knocked off South Carolina 5-4 in 10 innings Wednesday in the first game of the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks led 4-0 as LSU came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Vanderbilt and LSU did not play against each other during the regular season.

GOLD NUGGETS: The Commodores are now 3-2 in first-round SEC Tournament games under Corbin. Vanderbilt improved to 6-0 all-time against Florida in SEC Tournament play. …Vanderbilt redshirt freshman pitcher Caleb Cotham is slated to start Thursday against LSU. …With two hits Wednesday, de la Osa moved into 21st place on the all-time SEC list with 295. He became Vanderbilt’s all-time hits leader earlier this season. …Commodore relief pitcher Russell Brewer posted his team-leading sixth save of the season Wednesday.

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