Saturday, April 26, 2008

BASEBALL: Vandy 3 Kentucky 2

The atmosphere at Hawkins Field was electric Friday night as Vanderbilt (31-11, 11-7 SEC) defeated Kentucky (31-11, 9-10 SEC) 3-2 in a well-played ball game that coach Tim Corbin compared to a "boxing match." Make sure to check out my column below about the emergence of freshmen Chase Reid and Russell Brewer. Here are a few other observations:

-We saw two great pitching performances. Vanderbilt's Mike Minor was absolutely terrific for six innings before running out of a gas in the seventh. He gave up one unearned run of five hits while striking out nine and walking two in six-plus innings. Minor threw 106 pitches, 64 for strikes.

"He went right after the hitters," Corbin said of Minor. "We knew that Kentucky was one of those teams that would take early and try to make you throw a lot of pitches and I think that worked to his advantage if he was throwing strikes. I thought he commanded his pitches well – the changeup, the curveball – and got ahead of hitters early, which was typical of him early in the year."

Catcher Shea Robin said it was Minor's best start in three or four weeks.

"He got ahead of all their hitters, kept them off balance," Robin said. "He was throwing his changeup for strikes, which he hadn’t done in his last couple of outings so that was very good to see."

-Perhaps even more impressive was Kentucky's Chris Rusin, who tormented the Commodores with his curveball.

"He just absolutely had that breaking ball going the first five innings to the point where you’re kind of shaking your head, saying can he lose it for just a little bit of time?" Corbin said. "He had 80-command of the breaking ball and it was pretty devastating."

"This was definitely a pitcher’s night," Robin added. "The hitters on both sides kind of looked very bad. That guy kept us off balance with the curveball and then came in when we weren’t expecting it."

-The turning point of the game came in the seventh. With the bases loaded, nobody out and the scored tied at one, freshman Chase Reid came up clutch once again. He got the first batter he faced to strike out before enducing an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.

"You can’t ask for much more with Chase," Robin said. "He’s done that so many times this year, getting us out of key situations."

-Russell Brewer, who recorded the final five outs to pick up the victory, seems to have the perfect mindset for a closer.

"It’s the same mindset that Casey (Weathers) had last year," Robin said. "Granted they’re completely different pitchers. Casey throws 100 miles per hour and not everyone can do that, but the biggest thing is the mindset. Russ believes that he can get it done."

-Corbin had high praise for Brewer and Reid, both of whom have thrived in key roles this season.

"They’re pretty good," he said. "It’s a lot like (Jensen) Lewis and (Matt) Buschmann my first year here where we just threw them out there so much so that you forgot really that they’re freshmen."

-Offensively, the Commodores came up with a couple of key two-out hits, which is the sign of a good team. Robin's RBI double in the seventh gave the Dores a 2-1 lead and Pedro Alvarez put the team ahead for good with his RBI double of the right-centerfield wall in the eighth.

-See you all tomorrow at 2 p.m. CT when Caleb Cotham gets the nod.

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