Wednesday, March 26, 2008

BASEBALL: Vandy 7 Belmont 3

There were two encouraging signs from Vanderbilt’s 7-3 victory over Belmont Tuesday night at Hawkins Field – Brett Jacobson and Dominic de la Osa.

Let’s start with Jacobson, the talented right-hander who has had scouts drooling ever since he was drafted out of high school by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The junior came into the season with high expectations only to struggle mightily early on. No one imagined that he would go from being the No. 2 starter to a midweek guy, but that’s exactly what happened.

Now Jacobson is attempting to build himself back up, and Tuesday’s performance was certainly a step in the right direction. He gave up three runs on seven hits, while striking out four and walking two in seven innings of work.

“I think the most impressive thing about him was he kind of got off to a slow start and he was able to come back,” said shortstop Ryan Flaherty. “It looked like he might not last long and then all of a sudden it’s the seventh inning and there he is out there.”

Coach Tim Corbin also said he was pleased with the fact that Jacobson didn’t allow a run after the third.

“When he faced hitters for the second and third time around, he kept it down a little bit,” Corbin said. “I think that’s the value of a pitcher. I think sometimes a pitcher can get through a lineup one time, but can’t get through it a second and third time, so I thought his ability to do that was key, and hopefully that helps him a little bit because he’s a talented kid. Things have not been going his way, but it was good to see that tonight.”

Both Corbin and Flaherty acknowledged the Commodores (15-6, 3-3 SEC) need big things from Jacobson to be successful.

“He’s huge,” Flaherty said. “If we’re going to go anywhere this year, he’s going to have to be a big part of it. He’s the leader of our pitching staff with Mikie (Minor) and those guys down there, and once he gets going, we’re gonna be tough.”

Added Corbin: “I think if we go deep into this thing this year, he’s going to have to be a key player for us. I don’t see us winning without a guy like him. He’s going to have to pitch. He’s going to get better down the road, better than he is right now.

“This was a start for him, and he knows that. He’s not unrealistic. The kid works hard. He’s the first guy out here every single day. He deserves good things to happen to him.”

According to Corbin, Jacobson’s problems aren’t uncommon.

“When a pitcher gets hit, it’s usually because they just leave balls up in the zone,” Corbin said. “They flatten out. The fastball doesn’t have much movement to it, the breaking ball is flat and you’re pitching above the belt. It doesn’t really matter who you’re playing – SEC, out-of-SEC. People will hurt you.”

De la Osa, meanwhile, had a solid day at the plate, going 2-for-4, including a line-drive homer to left-center, with three runs scored. Coming into the game, the senior outfielder was hitting just .230 with 10 RBI, so Corbin switched de la Osa to the 2-hole, and it looks like it worked.

“I like him in the 2-hole because it gives Flaherty a chance to maybe see some fastballs and gives Dominic a chance to run behind a lefthander hitter,” Corbin said. “We needed to do something. We were stale. The kids are trying, but (they were) just stale.”

Corbin said de la Osa’s struggles stemmed from putting too much on pressure on himself.

“ He’s a very internal kid and he doesn’t’ have a lot of emotion,” he said. “He keeps everything in and when they do that, it can almost be worst for them. It bottles up and I think that’s what was happening.

“But, you know what, you look at his numbers and they’re not a whole lot different than last year. Okay, he had one more home run than he does right now, but he had seven more at-bats and five less hits and he’s got more walks and more stolen bases so just stay with it. This game has a way of evening itself out. As long as we get it going at the end of the year, that’s all that matters.”

Flaherty said he is confident they will.

“I think the pieces will start coming together,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep working hard and get better every day.”

EXTRA BASES: Corbin said freshman Sean Bierman will get the nod Wednesday against MTSU…The rotation for this weekend’s series with Arkansas will remain the same. Minor will start Friday night, followed by Caleb Cotham and Taylor Hill…The timetable for Pedro Alvarez’s return is 2-3 weeks. “I’d love to have him back for Ole Miss, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Corbin said.

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