HOOVER, Ala. – Vanderbilt picked the ideal time to finally beat Florida on Wednesday.
The Commodores, less than a week after being swept in a three-game series by the Gators, posted a 7-3 victory in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament at Regions Park.
Last week, VU blew leads in all three losses to Florida, but the third-seeded Gators ran out of late-game heroics Wednesday.
Commodore starting pitcher Mike Minor and three relievers combined to limit Florida to eight hits. No Gator baserunner advanced beyond second base in the final three innings.
“Their pitchers made pitches when they had to, and that was the difference in the game,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said of Vanderbilt.
The Commodores [38-18] raced to a 4-1 lead in the second inning and never trailed. VU won its sixth straight SEC Tournament game after winning five in a row last season while capturing the championship.
Vanderbilt, seeded No. 6, will take on LSU at 5 p.m. Thursday in second-round play. The Tigers opened the tournament with a 5-4 victory over South Carolina in 10 innings.
The Commodores, who entered the SEC Tournament on a five-game losing streak to close the regular season, won for the first time since May 9.
“This was a good start for us in this tournament,” VU coach Tim Corbin said. “We like coming down here. The kids are comfortable here and do well.”
Steven Liddle and Andrew Giobbi each had three hits to lead the VU offense, while pitchers Drew Hayes, Richie Goodenow and Russell Brewer combined to hold the Gators scoreless over the final three innings.
Minor [6-3] picked up the win by allowing three runs and striking out three in five innings. He was relieved in the sixth inning after throwing 99 pitches.
Minor, Vanderbilt’s ace, had struggled in recent weeks. His win Wednesday was only his third since April 11.
“I just felt we were going to hit and Mikie was going to pitch well,” Corbin said. “I had no fears about this game.”
Patrick Keating [8-1] took the loss for Florida [34-21], which fell into the loser’s bracket and takes on No. 7 seed South Carolina on Thursday morning.
With the game tied 1-1, the Commodores took the lead for good in the second inning at 4-1. Liddle scored on an error, Giobbi scored on a single by David Macias and Alex Feinberg scored on a fielder’s choice.
The lead grew to 5-1 in the fourth inning when Jonathan White singled, stole second base and later scored on a double-play groundout by Pedro Alvarez.
In the sixth inning, Feinberg scored on a sacrifice fly by Macias, making it 6-1.
Florida scored two runs in the sixth inning on run-scoring hits by Hampton Tignor and Brandon McArthur, cutting the lead to 6-3.
VU added its final run in the top of the ninth inning as Dominic de la Osa scored on a double-play groundout by Ryan Flaherty.
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 — 10 a.m.: South Carolina vs. Florida [CSS]
Game 6 — 1 p.m.: Georgia vs. Alabama [CSS]
Game 7 — 5 p.m.: Vanderbilt vs. LSU [CSS]
Game 8 — 8 p.m.: Ole Miss vs. Kentucky [CSS]
Game 9 — 3 p.m.: Winner G5 vs. Loser G7 [FSN]
Game 10 — 6:30 p.m.: Winner G6 vs. Loser G8 [FSN]
Game 11 — 10 a.m.: Winner G8 vs. Winner G9 [FSN]
Game 12 — 1:30 p.m.: Winner G7 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.