HOOVER, Ala. – Vanderbilt found out Thursday why LSU is the nation’s hottest baseball team.
Using an impressive blend of pitching, defense and hitting, the second-seeded Tigers routed the sixth-seeded Commodores 8-2 in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament at Regions Park.
LSU has won 18 straight games and has not lost since April 19.
“We played a good team,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “That’s Dr. Obvious saying that.”
The loss snapped VU’s six-game winning streak in the SEC Tournament dating back to last season. The Commodores will take on No. 7 seed South Carolina on Friday at 3 p.m. in an elimination game.
LSU failed to even appear in last year’s SEC Tournament. Re-stocked this season with 20 new players, the Tigers currently sport the nation’s longest winning streak.
“It’s just been a very balanced team with a heavy dose of self-confidence,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “The kids don’t think they can be beat.”
One day after pounding out 14 hits in a first-round win over Florida, Vanderbilt [38-18] was stymied Wednesday by the LSU left-handed pitcher Blake Martin, who allowed only one earned run before being relieved in the eighth inning. The Commodores were held to five hits, tying for their lowest total of the season.
Two VU errors contributed to a four-run fifth inning that allowed LSU [41-16-1] to grab the lead for good. In the sixth, a three-run home run by Derek Helehini buried Vanderbilt and knocked VU starter Caleb Cotham [7-5] out of the game.
Parker Hanks drove in both Vanderbilt runs with a home run in the third inning and a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Otherwise, the Commodores mounted few scoring threats.
“We definitely didn’t put our best foot forward as far as hitting, but you have to tip your hat to him,” Hanks said of Martin.
Cotham sailed through the early innings before the Tigers scored four runs in the fifth inning. Throwing errors by outfielder Dominic de la Osa and second baseman Alex Feinberg hurt VU’s cause.
“We let the game spin out of control there for a moment,” Corbin said. “You could feel the momentum going to the other dugout. That was unfortunate.”
Trailing 7-1, Vanderbilt loaded the bases in the seventh inning with one out but mustered only one run. The Commodores went down quietly in the eighth and ninth innings as Tigers relievers Paul Bertuccini and Jared Bradford closed the game.
A question lingers at Regions Park this week: Can anyone beat LSU?
“This team amazes me more every day,” Mainieri said. “In the dugout, you don’t sense any degree of panic whatsoever.”
Corbin said LSU’s confidence is apparent.
“Eighteen wins in a row, that’s tough to do,” he said. “They look like a team that has won a lot of ballgames.”
SEC Baseball Tournament
Game 1 — LSU 5, South Carolina 4 [10 innings]
Game 2 — Vanderbilt 7, Florida 3
Game 3 — Ole Miss 4, Georgia 1
Game 4 — Kentucky 9, Alabama 3
Game 5 — South Carolina 11, Florida 3
Game 6 — Alabama 5, Georgia 2
Game 7 — LSU 8, Vanderbilt 2
Game 8 — Ole Miss 8, Kentucky 7
Game 9 — 3 p.m.: Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina [FSN]
Game 10 — 6:30 p.m.: Alabama vs. Kentucky [FSN]
Game 11 — 10 a.m.: Ole Miss vs. Winner G9 [FSN]
Game 12 — 1:30 p.m.: LSU vs. Winner G10 [FSN]
Game 13* — 5 p.m.: Winner G11 vs. Loser G11 [CSS]
Game 14* — 8 p.m.: Winner G12 vs. Loser G12 [CSS]
Game 15* -- 3 p.m.: Winner G13 vs. Winner G14 [FSN]
*If both bracket winners are undefeated, there will be no 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. games on Saturday and the championship game Sunday will be Game 13.