The Vanderbilt Commodores used grit to knock off top seed Rice in the season opener at the Minute Maid Classic last year. Facing two-time defending champ Oregon State at the ASU-Demarini Classic in today’s opener, they Flashed pure dominance from start to finish.
Sophomore Mikie Minor was nothing short of brilliant on the mound, throwing quickly and setting down OSU in the first five brisk innings. In the first and second, he allowed baserunners (single and HBP), but picked each man off with his solid move to first base.
On the offensive side, Vandy struck early and often. A bases-loaded 2RBI single from All-American SS Ryan Flaherty gave Vandy an early lead and extended Flash’s SEC record hitting streak to 36 games, dating well back into last season. Senior LF Parker Hanks (2-4) added a mammoth 2nd inning solo-shot to the highway beyond left field in the second. Vandy would tack on additional runs in the 4th and 5 innings to hold a comfortable 5-0 lead at the halfway point.
Heralded OSU starter Mike Stutes just didn’t have it against a challenging Vandy lineup featuring the best 3-5 stretch in college baseball with All-American RF Dominic De la Osa (2-5, 2 R), Pre-Season National Player of the Year 3B Pedro Alvarez (0-2, 2BB, 1R, HBP) and Flaherty (2-4, 4RBI). Stutes exited having gone 4 innings and giving up 4ER on 7H and a BB with 3K.
Lefty Tanner Robles was very impressive in relief, despite an ugly statline. He struggled in the 5th, working very slowly and conceding a run. But he shut down Vandy’s bats in the next three innings with a solid pace and good spotting. He should be an excellent reliever for OSU if he can keep his concentration on the hill. In the 9th, he again worked slowly enough to be the human rain delay (which the drizzle in Tempe never did result in). Vandy tacked three more runs on to leave Robles with a deceptive line of 4.2 innings, 4ER on 3H and 4BB against 5K. In the ninth, Vandy scored on a Flaherty sac fly and an Alex Feinberg (the 2B founder of the Saturday Soldier wristband charity) 2RBI single.
The Beavers defense didn’t much help the OSU cause on the slick field. They committed an uncharacteristic three errors, but also benefited from the rain in generating their lone run in the 6th inning off of Minor. After a leadoff single, poor footing helped OSU garner consecutive sac bunts-turned-singles. A Joey Wong (0-4) double play ball plated C Erik Ammon (1-2) for the Beavers score.
Before departing after the 6th inning, Minor was purely dominant, spotting his fastball and change at will and mixing in an improved slider. The Sophomore (6IP, 5H, 6K, 0BB) has excellent mechanics and a filthy changeup that makes his 90MPH fastball seem even quicker. Although I did not see every AB, it appeared that 2B Jason Ogata’s (1-4) first inning single was the only ball solidly struck against him on the day.
Minor was replaced by Caleb Cotham, who Coach Tim Corbin has stated will be Vanderbilt’s fourth starter. Cotham featured a low-to-mid-90s fastball and sharp curve that was nothing short of dominating, laying credence to Corbin’s comments that Cotham was Vandy’s best pitcher in fall practice. Despite struggling with control in walks to RF Daniel Robertson (0-2) and PH Logan Boyd, Cotham spotted his fastball on the corners and broke his curve just out of the strike zone. Look for Cotham (3IP, 0H, 2BBs and 3Ks) to be a big part of the Commodore pitching equation, possibly finding his way into the weekend rotation should RHPs Nick Christiani or Brett Jacobsen falter.
The offensive stars of the game were Flaherty, Hanks, and DH Jonathan White (2-3, 2BB, 3R), all of Vanderbilt. Minor, Cotham and Robles were the pitching stars of the game, while Alvarez delivered two defensive gems at third and OSU 1B Drew George robbed Ryan Flaherty of a 2B in the third inning.
With the 8-1 victory, Vanderbilt moves to 1-0 on the season and takes on #1 Arizona State tomorrow at 3p.m. Eastern. Oregon State falls to 0-1 and will face Miami (OH) in tomorrow’s nightcap.
In other SEC Scores:
Auburn defeated East Tennessee State 6-3
Tennessee beat Morehead State 9-4
#7 Ole Miss topped Minnesota 7-1