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Vanderbilt Baseball wins critical SEC series against Arkansas

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Vanderbilt Baseball wins critical SEC series against Arkansas

Photo by Brent Szklaruk

Photo by Brent Szklaruk

Photo by Brent Szklaruk

Photo by Brent Szklaruk

JP Hefner

Two top-15 squads faced each other this weekend at Hawkins Field, as No. 7 Vanderbilt hosted No. 12 Arkansas. Friday’s SEC matchup was headlined by the pitching duel between Vanderbilt’s Drake Fellows and Arkansas’ Isaiah Campbell. Solid pitching resulted in a low-scoring ballgame, but Vanderbilt prevailed 3-2.

Friday’s win was highlighted by a pair of stellar performances by JJ Bleday and Austin Martin. Bleday scored in the fourth inning before driving in Martin and padding his stats in the sixth. Meanwhile, Martin recorded two hits of his own while playing a terrific defensive game. He’s provided consistent contact for the Commodores this season, leading the team with a batting average of .421.

Riding the momentum from Friday’s win, Vanderbilt came out hot in the second game and did not let up on the way to a 12-2 victory. The Commodores set the tone early by scoring an impressive twelve runs in the first three innings. Arkansas scored their two lone runs in the eighth.

Bleday had another great outing, as he scored three runs and drove in four more. The highlight of the game for Bleday was a home run in the third to drive in both Martin and Isaiah Thomas.

Ethan Paul played an integral role in the win by driving in two runs and scoring in the first inning. Paul has made a tremendous impact throughout the season as both a reliable hitter and defensive playmaker.

Sunday’s matchup resulted in a 14-12 Arkansas victory. The SEC rivals exchanged runs throughout the slugfest, as both teams combined for a total of thirty-four hits. Whipping winds allowed both teams to let the ball fly, while intermittent rain showers created difficulties in the field.

Vanderbilt’s most impressive performance came from Julian Infante, who launched two home runs to left field on Sunday. In addition to his slugging, Infante made consistent plays at first base to propel the Commodore defense.

When asked about his power hitting, Infante said he’s “just sticking to routine, not really focusing on any external stuff, just focusing on internal things.”

“We just want a complete game more than anything, we don’t really want one side, but at the end of the day we learn from that and we’ll be fine,” said Infante on the team’s performance Sunday.

Philip Clarke came up big for Vanderbilt, driving home six runs on three hits on Sunday. Clarke launched a two-run homer in the seventh to put the Commodores up three.

Following the game Clarke said “all that matters is the day, today was a tough one, we just gotta bounce back and see some positives.”

After the Sunday’s game Coach Tim Corbin said, “You gotta be greedy, every game means something. We’re only as good as today.”

As Vanderbilt continues to grind through the SEC schedule, the Commodores will need continued production from Bleday, Martin, and the rest of the starting lineup. With the amount of talent on the roster and consistent offensive production, there is no limit to how far the Commodores can go this season. The depth of the Commodores is also impressive, as Jayson Gonzalez, Isaiah Thomas, and Ty Duvall are rotational standouts. While there are many reasons for optimism heading into the latter part of the season, Vanderbilt must remain focused to secure a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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