Stavinoha has huge weekend for Tigers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vanderbilt scouting report indicated they wanted to control Nick Stavinoha, the Tigers' cleanup hitter. Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin told his troops he was one of many dangerous hitters in the LSU lineup, and he hoped to keep him in check throughout the weekend.

Didn't happen.

Stavinoha went out and had his best Southeastern Conference series of the season, banging out seven hits, including two home runs, as LSU took two of three at Vanderbilt's Hawkins Field.

"That's what he gets paid to do," said LSU coach Smoke Laval.

Stavinoha started off hot on Saturday in the first game of the doubleheader and never really cooled off. He went 2-for-4 in the opening game loss, including a double that put some pressure on the Commodores in the sixth inning. Trailing 6-2, Ryan Patterson hit a solo home run to cut the lead to 6-3. Stavinoha followed with a double, but ended up being left at second base when Clay Harris flied to center field.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Stavinoha had four hits in five trips, including an icing-on-the-cake home run in the ninth inning of a 9-3 win.

"I was seeing things well at the plate this weekend," he said.

Sunday, Stavinoha provided all three RBIs in a 3-0 victory. He smacked a two-run homer in the third inning and knocked in another run in the fifth inning on a fielder's choice when he just beat out a potential inning-ending double play at first.

"The seven hits, yeah, that's good, but there were some other times where I was able to move some runners over and help the team that way," Stavinoha said. "I moved a runner over to third, I scored someone on a ground ball. I'm as excited about some of those things."

The Tigers were facing hard-throwing Vanderbilt freshman David Price on Sunday, a 6-foot-6 left-hander. Stavinoha understood his game plan coming into his at-bats against Price and nearly slugged two home runs. In the first inning, Stavinoha flied deep to left. On his second at-bat, he cleared the fence and deposited the ball on top of Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym.

"Price did a good job busting right-handed hitters in," Stavinoha said. "We were told before the game he tries to set up the outside corner by pounding inside. My first time up, he jammed me real bad for a foul ball. The next pitch, I tried to shorten up and got the head of the bat on it and flew out. In the second at-bat, he went with the same plan. I was looking for that pitch."

The 2-0 cushion was a boost for Greg Smith, who cruised to his second straight shutout on the mound for LSU.

"Stavinoha did a good job getting to the guy and giving us a two-run lead," Smith said.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin was impressed with the 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior.

"He looks like Bam-Bam (of the Flintstones)," Corbin said. "He takes a club up there and just hacks. That ball he hit off Price was a 95-mile an hour fastball that he hit on top of (Vanderbilt basketball coach Kevin) Stallings' office. He's a pretty good hitter. We couldn't get him out all weekend."

Corbin said he expects Stavinoha to win SEC Player of the Week honors after batting .500 against one of the best pitching staffs in the league.

Stavinoha did run the Tigers out of a potential insurance run in the clincher, getting caught off third base. LSU tried a double-steal with Will Harris on first. But when the Vanderbilt catcher threw down to second, the ball was cut off by pitcher Ryan Rote, who charged at Stavinoha at third and caught him in a rundown.

Still, it was a strong weekend for Stavinoha and the Tigers, who are back in contention for the SEC West crown.

"I think everybody's attitude is right," Stavinoha said. "I think everybody is ready to play each day. Nobody is too uptight. I like the mood and the attitude. It is hard work in the SEC. We're going to try to keep on rolling with it."

Stavinoha is hitting .370 on the season with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs, which is tied with Clay Harris for the team lead. His four-hit effort on Saturday was a career-high, and he has exceeded his home runs and RBIs from last season already.

Laval said production from the middle of the lineup was key in the series victory over Vanderbilt.

"You need that," he said. "You're go-to guy needs to have a good weekend. (Vanderbilt's) Warner Jones had like one hit, and the guy hit .900 last year. He couldn't get on in front of (Mike) Baxter, who had some hits. And he couldn't drive guys in. He would pop up with two guys on, whereas last year, he'd get a base hit there and make it a ballgame. Our big guys came through."

Especially Mr. Stavinoha.

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