Time is running out on Vanderbilt’s quest to reach its seventh straight NCAA Regional.
On Sunday, the Commodores swung like a team desperate for wins.
Vanderbilt laced 14 hits in an 11-2 blowout of Auburn before a season-high crowd of 3,385 at Hawkins Field to bounce back from a Saturday for just its second SEC series win.
Halfway through the conference season, Vanderbilt is 16-20 overall and 6-9 in league play. In order to be eligible for the NCAA tournament, the Commodores must finish the season above .500.
“Fourteen hits [Sunday] – that’s what we need,” left fielder Tony Kemp said. “Fourteen hits, 11 runs, walking, getting on base, people hitting people in, bunting, sacrificing, we did everything right [Sunday] and that’s why we won.”
Every starter reached base for Vanderbilt and only Conrad Gregor failed to get a hit against the Tigers (19-16, 7-8) Vince Conde’s sacrifice fly in the second started the scoring. The Commodores added two more in that inning when Anthony Gomez crushed a two-run double off the top of the left-field wall.
Mike Yastrzemski and Tony Kemp each tripled. Kemp has five triples this season, which ties him for most in the SEC. His shot to the right-center gap was part of a three-run fourth inning for a 6-0 lead to break open the game.
The No. 1 and 2 hitters in the lineup, Kemp and Gomez, had three hits apiece and Gomez drove in three runs. The Commodores finished with five extra-base knocks and chased Auburn starter Daniel Koger in the third inning.
“I felt we were very consistent throughout [the lineup],” coach Tim Corbin said. “We got the ball to the fence a couple times. Not by a virtue of a fly ball but a line drive and that was nice to see. ... We kind of tapped into our playbook a little bit and made some things happen with our bats and legs."
Formerly Vanderbilt’s Friday night starter, Kevin Ziomek shifted to Sunday. T.J. Pecoraro took his place on Friday, pitching 4 2/3 innings in his first start of the season as he continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Ziomek (3-6) settled into his new spot, which Corbin said could change. The left-hander had one of his best outings of the season, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing just two runs on four hits. He walked four but struck out seven to pick up his first win since March 9. Ziomek had given up 11 runs in just eight total innings in his previous three outings.
“I established the inside corner pretty early, which was good,” Ziomek said. “But I think the biggest thing was just our hitters giving me a lot of confidence from the start, jumping on their pitcher, who had a real good arm. We hopped on him.”
Vanderbilt hosts non-conference foe Middle Tennessee State (21-15) on Tuesday before hitting the road to take on last-place Alabama (13-22, 4-10). After next weekend, three of the Commodores' four final SEC series are against ranked teams – Kentucky, LSU and Ole Miss.
“There is no sense of urgency,” Corbin said. “We know what we have. We know what our record is and we know we have to accomplish. But if it’s urgency then nothing is going to get accomplished. This is all about trying to do what we are capable of doing. We’ve shown plenty of instances of playing well and getting better. That’s really all we need to focus in on now is just playing better and let the scoreboard take care of itself.”