Vanderbilt claims second straight SEC series with short Sunday win over LSU

Photo by Hunter Long

In a seven-inning game, the Vanderbilt Commodores defeated the 20th-ranked LSU Tigers 1-0, making a one-run win look comfortable and easy in just one hour and 35 minutes of gametime.

Coach Tim Corbin joked about the unusually quick game afterwards.

“We’ve never done anything this fast before,” he said. “One hour and [35] minutes, that’ll be the shortest workout they ever have at Vanderbilt while they’re here.”

The game was shortened because the two teams had to finish playing the final two innings from Saturday night’s game prior to the start of this game.

Starting pitcher Mason Hickman was a whirlwind on the mound, working fast and dusting off batters with his slider for nine strikeouts in seven shutout innings. Improving his record to 5-0, the local freshman continued to impress with his ability to contribute to Commodore victories.

Corbin talked about one of his strengths being the toughness that comes from being a Tennessee kid.

“I think [Hickman’s] a lot like Raby, I think he’s a winner. And he’s one of those kids that, he gets the ball, you just sense good things are going to come out of him when he’s on the mound,” Corbin said.

Vanderbilt’s only run came in the top of the first on the back of Philip Clarke’s leadoff single and strong baserunning. Clarke recorded the single on a grounder staying just fair down the right foul line that the first baseman knocked down.

The leadoff hitter stole second, and took third base on Austin Martin’s flyout to center, barely beating the close throw. Then, while JJ Bleday was at bat, Clarke aggressively scored on a passed ball by the catcher that reached the dugout.

Singles by Bleday and Ethan Paul to right field put runners on first and second with two outs for Connor Kaiser, but Kaiser struck out chasing a ball down and away, failing to add to the lead.

Despite running out a completely staggered lineup alternating left-handed and right-handed batters, the Commodores stayed quiet at the plate for the rest of the game. The only players to record hits were Clarke, Bleday, and Paul, all left-handed batters who found their success on balls hit into right field.

Nevertheless, with the breakneck pace of the game and Hickman’s shutdown performance, the atmosphere remained light and unconcerned.

The Tigers threatened once in the top of the first on an attempted steal. An on-time but errant throw by catcher Stephen Scott that squirted into center field allowed the runner to steal second and advance to third.

But on the very next pitch, Hickman struck out the cleanup hitter on a breaking ball down and away. He credited his breaking ball for his ability to rack up swings and misses.

“Slider off the back foot to a lefty was working pretty well,” Hickman said.

Later, in the third inning, Scott bounced back by throwing out a baserunner by a mile. DeMarco added a nice catch going to the ground on a line drive to center that was about to fall.

Paul made a strong play ranging all the way to the left side of the infield to snag a ball that got past Hickman and throw out the runner at first.

The best defensive play of the day came when JJ Bleday covered a long distance to make an incredible diving catch on a fly ball that was threatening to drop right inside fair territory.

Hickman closed out the final inning against the Tigers’ heart of the order, wrapping up the game before the hour hand on the clock even hit two. The righty struck out tough LSU batter Antoine Duplantis, and tallied the second out on a liner that stung him in the leg before bouncing to Paul for the throw over to first.

A four-pitch walk to the designated hitter added to the excitement and tension, but Hickman finished the game by inducing a hard-hit one-hopper to second baseman Paul, who played the ball perfectly, keeping it in front of him to make the final out.

Hickman was so in the zone today that he did not even react to being hit by the line drive in the final inning

“Honestly, it was all adrenaline. Now I’m starting to feel it and it’s getting a little sore,” Hickman said.

The Vanderbilt Commodores will hop on over to First Tennessee Park to take on the Lipscomb Bisons Tuesday night at 6:30pm.

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