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.

VandyBoys win SEC Tournament, defeat Texas A&M 10-6 in SEC championship game

The VandyBoys beat several national contenders to win the SEC Tournament.
Vanderbilt Athletics
The VandyBoys celebrating winning the SEC Tournament on May 28, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

The Vanderbilt Commodores took the crown at the SEC Baseball Tournament on May 28 in Hoover, Alabama. It’s the fourth SEC Tournament title in Vanderbilt’s history and the third under Tim Corbin. The VandyBoys went 4-1 in the modified double-elimination tournament to claim the title.

The Commodores opened their week on May 24 with a 6-4 win over Auburn. Vanderbilt was led at the plate that day by Davis Diaz’s 2-for-3 performance with 2 runs batted in. Meanwhile, Sam Hliboki and Patrick Reilly threw four and five innings, respectively, allowing 2 runs apiece. 

The VandyBoys suffered their only defeat of the tournament on May 25 in a 6-3 loss to top-seeded Florida. The game saw the return of left-handed starting pitcher Hunter Owen, who pitched three innings, allowing just a solo home run. Owen’s early removal and the extended warm-up time given to reliever David Horn caused Vanderbilt fans and the SEC Network broadcasters to speculate that Owen had been re-injured, but Corbin has since said that the lefty will return for the Regional. The loss to Florida meant that the Commodores would need to win their next three straight games to take the conference title.

In an elimination game the next night, Vanderbilt cruised to a 9-2 win over Alabama. The VandyBoys jumped on the Crimson Tide early, putting five runs on the board in the top of the first inning. Chris Maldonado went 2-for-2 with a homer and three walks, while RJ Austin homered as well and was 3-for-4. Devin Futrell and Thomas Schultz tag-teamed on the mound, with Futrell pitching five frames and Schultz taking the last four.

For the semifinal, Vanderbilt was faced with a rematch against Florida. The Commodores again jumped out to a big early lead, going up 10-1 in the first three innings. The whole lineup chipped in again, and Alan Espinal was 3-for-4 with a homer. JD Thompson made his first career college start, allowing 5 runs in 4.2 innings. Vanderbilt eventually secured an 11-6 win, with Nick Maldonado pitching two scoreless innings to wrap it up.

In Sunday’s championship game, Vanderbilt faced No. 10 seed Texas A&M. The Aggies scored first, but a three-run homer by Troy LaNeve put the Commodores up 3-1 in the second inning. Texas A&M hung around, and Vanderbilt led 5-4 through seven frames. It was not until a five-run eighth inning for Vanderbilt that blew the game open and essentially secure the tournament title. Calvin Hewett’s three-run double capped off the rally. Nick Maldonado came out again to pitch a scoreless ninth and win the championship 10-6. 

Austin was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after going 7-for-18 at the plate. He and fellow freshman Chris Maldonado were named to the All-Tournament team.

The last SEC Tournament title for Vanderbilt came in 2019, a year in which the team also won the regular season title and eventually the College World Series. With the Nashville Regional starting on Friday, June 2, this year’s team will hope to copy that fate.

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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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