The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Three up, three down: Commodores get a no-no in Minnesota

Takeaways from the VandyBoys’ 2-1 weekend at the Cambria College Classic.
Vanderbilt Athletics
The VandyBoys celebrate after the combined no-hitter against Minnesota on March 5 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

The No. 7 Vanderbilt Commodores went 2-1 at the Cambria College Classic at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, against three Big 10 teams. Following a 5-3 loss to Nebraska on Friday, the Commodores rebounded with wins over No. 18 Maryland and Minnesota. Here’s this weekend’s Three up, Three down recap.

Three up.

Combined no-hitter

A combined no-no in a non-conference game against a bad Minnesota team may not seem like much, but keeping any college team hitless is still a significant accomplishment. It’s even more impressive given that projected starter Devin Futrell was scratched from the Sunday start, with no official word given on why. Instead, Greysen Carter, Sam Hliboki, Ryan Ginther and Nick Maldonado combined to blank the Golden Gophers. Hliboki’s impact is perhaps the most important takeaway from this performance. While he was slotted in at the start of the year to be one of Tim Corbin’s top relievers, his first three appearances saw him lose two games and have his earned-run average (ERA) balloon into double-digits. Recording 3.1 hitless innings with eight strikeouts and an earned win on Sunday will hopefully put the senior right-hander back on track.

The RJs are raking

The main lineup change for the VandyBoys this week was Corbin’s decision on Saturday to shuffle the infielders’ positions. RJ Austin moved from third base to second, Jonathan Vastine moved from second to shortstop and Davis Diaz moved from shortstop to third. For Austin’s part, the freshman had a 4-for-10 series with two homers on Saturday. The freshman has a .326 batting average after starting all 12 games so far with an on-base percentage (OBP) of .426 and a .500 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, RJ Schreck had his best series so far since transferring from Duke. Schreck also went 4-for-10 in Minnesota, homering twice on Friday with a total 4 runs batted in, including a walk-off sacrifice fly on Saturday. Despite Schreck’s early struggles, Corbin has kept him around the middle of the order. With much of the rest of the offense still batting cold, the impact of the two RJs has been immense.

RJ Austin rounding the bases at the Cambria College Classic (Vanderbilt Athletics).
RJ Austin rounding the bases at the Cambria College Classic (Vanderbilt Athletics). (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Racking up ranked wins

While Vanderbilt sports fans are spending most of this week talking about building an impressive resume for the NCAA selection committee in some other sport, the VandyBoys have put some good marks on their own CV already. Saturday’s win over Maryland is the Commodores’ fourth ranked win already, including two against UCLA. Of course, these wins will be contrasted with a few bad losses and awkward performances, including a home loss to Central Arkansas and a near loss to Austin Peay. What’s more important in the long run is that the Commodores have shown that they’re at least on par with the best teams in college baseball ― even if there are kinks to work out. With a full three months left before Regional hosts will be selected, the VandyBoys can be secure in knowing that their difficult non-conference schedule has so far not put them at any disadvantage.

Three down.

Who wants to play left field?

Enrique Bradfield Jr. will always be the centerfielder, and Schreck has a lock on right. The left field job was a bit of a mystery from the start, and nobody seems to be the clear favorite to keep it. Calvin Hewett, T.J. McKenzie, Troy LaNeve and JD Rogers have all gotten playing time in left, with most of that time going to Hewett. However, none of them are hitting above .200, including Hewett, who was 0-for-5 on Sunday against an underwhelming Minnesota pitching staff. With another five games coming up this week, we could see a more even distribution of at-bats as Corbin fleshes out who could fill that spot for the long term.

Shaky starts

The Friday-Saturday punch of Carter Holton and Hunter Owen has been mostly reliable, but both looked rocky over the weekend. Holton allowed 8 hits and 2 earned runs in five frames, while Owen allowed 6 runs in his five-inning start. Holton’s outing is really not much of a concern. He’s adjusted well to the Friday role and kept his ERA at 2.51 so far. Owen was more of a surprise in the Saturday spot, so that position may be more flexible to change. In addition, Futrell’s conspicuous absence may be a setup for him to return to the midweeks or could be injury-related. Of course, the starting rotation essentially won the UCLA series last week, so they’re certainly capable of bouncing back.

Baseball in a football stadium

This is really more of an aesthetic complaint than anything else, but the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium is just not a baseball park. To be fair, Minnesota always has to play early-season games there because it snows in Minneapolis until about the Fourth of July. However, as the host of a multi-team event, this venue just didn’t work. The rectangular dimensions led to outfield fences that were far too short in some places and long in others with wacky square corners. The all-grass field minus the small, implanted dirt patch around home plate looked amateurish, and the aesthetic was worsened by the low-quality broadcast on the Big Ten Network’s over-the-top streaming service. 

It’s of course a petty complaint and doesn’t really matter for Vanderbilt in the long run of this season, minus whatever small fortune they were paid to participate in this event. However, for Commodore fans spoiled by seeing beautiful college ballparks in the South all spring, this venue was certainly a bit jarring.

The VandyBoys will play their first of two midweek games this week on Tuesday, March 7 at 4:30 p.m. CST against Tennessee Tech.

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About the Contributor
Frankie Sheehy
Frankie Sheehy, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Frankie Sheehy ('24) wrote for The Hustler Sports section and graduated from the College of Arts and Science with majors in economics and law, history and society. He was also the president of the Vanderbilt Chess Club and a superfan of the Chicago White Sox. You can reach him at [email protected].
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