With good reason, Vanderbilt’s Alex Feinberg wasn’t available for comment after Sunday’s game against Mississippi State. His mouth was wired shut.
A week removed from suffering a broken jaw after being hit by a 92 miles-per-hour fastball, Feinberg surprisingly, if not miraculously, returned to the lineup over the weekend.
The 19th-ranked Commodores beat Mississippi State 4-3 on Sunday in Starkville, Miss., to complete their first road Southeastern Conference three-game sweep since 1993 and first at MSU since 1914.
Feinberg was so sure he wasn’t going to play over the weekend that he didn’t even pack his uniform.
VU coach Tim Corbin figured Feinberg would need at least two weeks to recover.
“It was the doctor’s decision to keep him out in terms of his breathing,” Corbin said. “He started moving around on Friday and said, ‘I can breathe. If that’s all there is to this, I want to play.’
“It was either him or a couple of other guys we were talking about at DH, and he said, ‘That’s a no-brainer. You need to hit me.’”
Serving as the designated hitter, and wearing a spare No. 10 jersey instead of his customary No. 8, Feinberg went 1-for-5 both Saturday and Sunday.
The presence of a senior and team leader might have sparked the Commodores, who won 15-8 on Friday and 16-0 on Saturday while producing their highest run total ever in a three-game series against Mississippi State.
“His presence on the field, more than anything else, is good for the team,” Corbin said. “Everyone sees him and they build off of it. Mentally, it was a great lift for our team.”
This wasn’t the first time Feinberg has battled through an injury to make an earlier-than-expected return.
In the 2006 Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, Ala., he sustained a dislocated shoulder on a play at the plate in a game against Georgia while colliding with the catcher.
Although Corbin thought Feinberg’s season was finished, Feinberg returned to action in the same tournament.
“That toughness is hard to find,” Corbin said. “It takes a certain individual from a mental standpoint to put an injury or a feeling of pain to the side so they can concentrate enough to play. That’s exactly what he does.
“Other kids can’t separate it. Once they feel pain, it interferes with their ability to play. Alex is just different that way. He has tremendous drive.”
Vanderbilt pitchers surrendered only four hits Sunday. Nick Christiani (4-2) earned the win by giving up two runs on three hits in seven innings of work with 10 strikeouts and four walks.
Trailing 4-3, the Bulldogs had the bases loaded with no outs in the ninth inning. VU relievers Richie Goodenow and Russell Brewer struck out the final two betters to preserve the victory.
Vanderbilt’s Pedro Alvarez smacked his third home run of the season and the 43rd of his career, tying him with Glenn Davis (1995-97) for third all-time at Vanderbilt.