With one swing of his bat, Riley Reynolds found that way Thursday night and the VU pitchers made it just enough.
Reynolds bashed a two-out, two-run triple to chase in the only runs Vanderbilt needed because Sam Selman, Tyler Beede and Jared Miller were lock-down stingy against the Gators in a 2-1 triumph at SEC Tournament.
The win snapped a seven-game losing streak against No. 2-ranked Florida, and more importantly propels the Commodores (32-25) into the semifinal round on Saturday at 3 p.m. against the winner of Friday's Florida-South Carolina elimination game.
In a game that set up as a duel between the red-hot Selman and Gators ace Hudson Randall was just that for 3½ innings as both offenses scuffled to gain a foothold.
Randall was blazing along, retiring 11 of the first 12 batters he faced after getting two quick outs in the Vandy fourth frame. That changed abruptly when he walked Conrad Gregor and Spencer Navin – both on four pitches – to give the Dores a pair of runners on base for the first time.
Reynolds took a strike and then hammered a ball to the gap in right-center field that split Florida outfielders Daniel Pigott and Preston Tucker and rolled long enough for Gregor and Navin to score easily as Reynolds motored to third base.
"(Randall) had been throwing well all night," Reynolds said. "I was just trying to get something up. He threw that ball slow in the dirt and I was able to get it up the middle and put a good swing on it."
That was all the Vandy offense scratched out, and the Dores left a runner in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. But Riley's blow was enough because the pitching staff was again spectacular.
In three tournament games, the Commodores have allowed four runs in 27 innings and Selman was as strong as anybody considering the caliber of the offense he had to battle.
Selman dodged and weaved traffic for six innings, allowing only two hits. He did walk four and hot another batter, but frustrated the Gators by stranding two runners in four of his six innings.
"I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead of guys," Selman said after upping his record to 9-3. "I didn't really do that too well. I tried to force ground balls and get outs."
Added VU coach Tim Corbin, who has his team in the tournament semifinals for the second year in a row and sixth time in the last seven years, "He pitched out of trouble. This is something that we have seen here in the last 10 weeks. It is hard to pinpoint one guy, but our success as a team stems a lot from what he was doing. He has come a long way. I am proud of him. He has a good arm. He has always been able to throw the fastball. The reason he is having success is his ability to throw breaking balls and fastballs for strikes."
Florida (41-17) broke through for its only run in the seventh inning after Beede took over.
Nolan Fontana started the frame with the Gators' first leadoff hit and he distracted Beede enough to force a bad pickoff throw to first base that sent the runner dashing all the way to third base.
Beede struck out Pigott but Tucker got enough of an 0-and-2 pitch to loft it to deep right field for a sacrifice fly that cut the Commodore lead in half. After walking Mike Zunino, Beede gave way to Miller.
The freshman came through in the clutch, fanning Brian Johnson, notching five outs in a row until Pigott singled with two outs in the ninth and slamming the door by getting Tucker to line out to right fielder Mike Yastrzemski to record his first career save.
"I just kind of watched Sam do a good job of keeping them off-balance," Miller said. "I watched where his locations were. Then Beede came in and did a nice job. I was ready when they called my name. I don't throw as hard as Sam so I have to keep the ball down and focus on the angle and keeping the ball low and off the plate a little bit."
Thursday's win was Vanderbilt's season-high eighth in a row and also the 10th against a ranked foe in a 16-game stretch when the Commodores are 13-3. Follow @VandyManiacom
Vandy baseball gets off day at SEC Tournament
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