Vanderbilt baseball has plenty of reasons for optimism at start of conference play

Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 8:57pm

Victories have been plentiful for Vanderbilt’s baseball team thus far this season. So have heroes.

The Commodores are 17-1 as they enter conference play with a three-game series at home this weekend against Mississippi State. They are ranked No. 1 in one of the three major college baseball polls and No. 2 in the other two.

That record matches their start to the 2007 season. That team, led by David Price and Pedro Alvarez, won the SEC regular season title, went unbeaten in the SEC tournament and hosted an NCAA regional after having spent the vast majority of the season ranked No. 1.

“They’ve been able to establish themselves as a winning team,” coach Tim Corbin said. “And not just one kid or two kids, because we’ve been in situations now where we’ve been behind and clutch situations have fallen on many … and every kid, up to this point, has come through in certain situations.

“Now I know that there will be hills and valleys in a season but through the first third of the season it’s been as consistent as we’ve had here.”

A look at some of those who have delivered at critical moments this season:

• Anthony Gomez delivered a bases loaded single in the bottom of the ninth Sunday as Vanderbilt completed a sweep of Illinois-Chicago with a 2-1 victory. Gomez has hit safely in his last 13 games.

• The Commodores rallied from an early six-run deficit, tied it in the eighth on a squeeze bunt by Tony Kemp, tied it again in the ninth on Sam Lind’s double and then won it 9-8 on Mike Yastrzemski’s RBI double in the bottom of the 10th.

• On March 6, Vanderbilt and Brown were tied 3-3 after five and half innings of a scheduled seven-inning affair. The Commodores scored three times on four hits in the bottom of the sixth capped by Joe Loftus’ bases loaded walk.

• Starting pitcher Sonny Gray allowed a second inning run but then did not give up a hit over the next four innings in a 2-1 victory over Stanford on Feb. 25. Gray has not lost in four starts (he’s 4-0) and has struck out 36, which ranks among the conference leaders.

• The next day, the late-inning duo of Mark Lamm and Navery Moore pitched three scoreless innings as Vanderbilt rallied for a 9-8 victory over the Cardinals. Lamm and Moore have each appeared in half of the 18 games and together they have allowed two runs (one earned).

“They have a pretty mature approach to the game and how they treat each opponent,” Corbin said. “Their attention to detail when it comes to the short game, when it comes to small defensive things that we do, their attention and preparation before a game — it’s never changed.

“It really doesn’t matter who we play. From the start of the season to this point, the kids come in at the same time every day. They know exactly what they’re going to do. It’s been very routine oriented.”