Missouri is one of the newest members of the Southeastern Conference. It also is the latest to feel the wrath of the league’s hottest baseball team.
Vanderbilt scored 39 runs over three games against the Tigers en route to a third straight SEC series sweep — a first in program history. After winning 11-5 Friday and 12-1 on Saturday, it closed out the weekend with a 16-4 rout on Sunday at Hawkins Field.
The teams had never met before Friday but the second-ranked Commodores quickly introduced themselves. Their run total was the highest for a series in two years and came from 54 hits.
Vanderbilt (33-4, 14-1) never started a season better and currently owns the second-longest winning streak in program history (14 games).
“You have the confidence knowing that you have the guys to win,” center fielder Connor Harrell said. “When you got the guys to win it makes it a lot of fun. When you have that, you kind of have a feeling there is nobody that can beat us — even if it is not true.”
After relying heavily on pitching, defense and speed recently, The Commodores dug into their offensive arsenal against Missouri (12-20, 4-11), which ranks in the bottom three in the SEC in batting average and ERA.
Harrell got things started on Friday with a three-run home run in the first inning that erased a two-run deficit. He later put his team back on top with a solo shot — his seventh of the season. Kyle Smith also homered for the team’s first three-home run game in a year.
Vanderbilt had hit just two home runs in its previous 15 games.
On Saturday, the Commodores peppered Missouri with 18 singles and a season-high 19 hits as pitcher Tyler Beede stayed perfect (9-0).
In the finale, they used a mixture of extra-base hits — four doubles, two triples and a home run. Harrell matched a career-high with four hits in addition to four RBIs. Tony Kemp also added four hits and freshman Rhett Wiseman had three.
“Just a good weekend for us,” coach Tim Corbin said. “We took advantage of ourselves feeling confident and getting good pitches to hit. I thought we faced a good starter [Rob Zastryzny] on Friday night — a guy who has held some people down. And [Keaton Steele on Sunday] has good numbers and threw the ball well. We just were hot. It is a good weekend and guys have come into this thing and stayed on task with their preparation. It is paying off a little bit.”
With a loss by LSU on Saturday, Vanderbilt is not only atop the SEC East division but in first place in the league as well.
If this torrid stretch seems familiar it should. Earlier this season, in February and March, the Commodores rattled off 13 straight wins — at the time the most since the 2007 team won a school-record 19 in a row.
Most of this bunch knows how to win at the college level.
Six of the nine starters in Sunday’s lineup played on the 2011 team that won 32 of its first 37 games and reached the program’s first College World Series. Now, 21 freshmen and sophomores — the No. 1 recruiting classes in the country the last two years — have been added to have helped fuel a similar historic ride.
“It is a surreal. It is unbelievable,” Wiseman said. “Being able to play under these guys and seeing how they react to different situations is really something. Speaking for all of the freshmen, it is really special watching these guys perform and seeing how they play under pressure.”