Friday (6:30 p.m., SEC Network+)
RHP Carson Fulmer (3-1, 1.85 ERA) vs. RHP Brett Marks (2-2, 1.38 ERA)
Saturday (4 p.m., SEC Network)
RHP Walker Buehler (2-0, 2.55 ERA) vs. LHP Drake Owenby (1-3, 2.20 ERA)
Sunday (2:30 p.m., SEC Network)
RHP Jordan Sheffield (3-0, 2.27 ERA) vs. RHP Hunter Martin (1-0, 2.16 ERA)
The defending National Champion Vanderbilt Commodores (20-5, 5-1 SEC) won their second consecutive conference series pulling out 2 of 3 wins at Auburn. Vanderbilt dropped the Friday night opening game of the series after several players, including starting pitcher Carson Fulmer, became sick on the trip to Auburn. The Commodores then swept a double header on Saturday to take the series. The 'Dores won game 1 convincingly 10-5 and then rallied to win game two in 10 innings 7-6. On Tuesday night the 'Dores beat local rival Middle Tennessee soundly, 12-7, to win the 20th game of the season. Now the Commodores face their in-state rivals from East Tennessee, the Tennessee Vols.
Vanderbilt as a team is batting at a .315 average (2nd in SEC) and has scored an average of 7.44 runs per game.
Right fielder Rhett Wiseman (.381, 20 RBIs) has been Vanderbilt's most consistent hitter but had an off week with just four hits in 19 at bats. Wiseman co-leads the squad in homers with four. Short stop Dansby Swanson (.365, 24 RBI) is the 'Dores top base stealing threat with 10 successful steals in 11 attempts. Zander Wiel (.348, 29 RBIs), is a powerful hitter who is a threat to knock the ball out of the park every time he is at bat. Wiel currently leads the team in RBIs. Second baseman Tyler Campbell (.275, 10 RBIs) and third baseman freshman Will Toffey (.263, 13 RBIs) round out the top Commodore hitting threats.
Vanderbilt leads the SEC in combined staff strikeouts with 252 and is second in opposing batting average (.204). However, the Commodores have fallen to seventh in the conference in ERA at 2.95.
Righty Carson Fulmer (3-1, 1.85 ERA) leads the Commodore staff in strikeouts with 48. Last week at Auburn on Friday night, Fulmer had a rough outing. He gave up seven hits and six runs as the Commodores fell to the Tigers 6-4. Fulmer did strike out an impressive eight Tigers but three fielding errors doomed the Dore's chances of picking up a win.
Junior righty Walker Buehler (2-0, 2.55 ERA) will take the mound for the 'Dores on Saturday. Buehler missed several games during the pre-conference schedule due to injury but now seems to be back at full speed. Last week in a 10-5 win over Auburn Buehler struck out five and allowed three earned runs on eight hits in five 2/3 innings of work. Buehler has struck out 19 batters in four appearances this season.
Redshirt freshman right hander Jordan Sheffield (3-0, 2.27 ERA) is set to pitch on Sunday. Sheffield has suddenly emerged as another Commodore pitching jewel. Last week against Auburn he pitched six solid innings striking out six while allowing six hits and three earned runs. Sheffield left the game with the Dores seemingly in control with a 6-3 lead. However, the Tigers would rally back and tie the game at six to send the game into extra innings. Closer Ben Bowden, who gave up the three earned runs, stayed in the game and was able to get things together. Vandy regained the lead and Bowden earned a win.
Vandy's bullpen is in its usual great shape with players like Philip Pfeifer (2-1, 1.71), lefty John Kilichowski (1-0, 4.38) and Kyle Wright (2-0, 1.52). Bowden (4-1, 2.70) is the closer for the 'Dores. He has 25 strikeouts in just 13 innings pitched.
Tennessee (10-11, 1-5) has had a tough season so far in 2015. The Vols opened their conference slate with a 6-3 win at Florida. However, since then the Vols have lost five straight SEC games including being swept at home by Georgia last weekend. UT has had really bad luck with the weather. They had an entire series with Rutgers cancelled and then even had at game at UC-Irvine, in normally sunny Los Angeles be rescheduled due to weather.
Tennessee as a team bats .252, good for 12th best in the league. The Vols are also 13th in the conference in on-base percentage (.341) and sixth in on-base percentage at .380 and last in runs scored (96).
Second baseman Nick Senzel (.354, 12 RBI) leads the Vols in triples with four and also has a homer. Outfielder Vincent Jackson (.347, 5 RBI) is the leader on the team in walks with 12. He also has seven stolen bases. Christin Stewart (.324, 19 RBI) has a team leading six homers. Short stop A.J. Simcox (.272, 12 RBI) is the Vols top running threat. He's stolen successfully on all seven of his attempts. Nathaniel Maggio (.267, 8 RBI) and David Houser (.256, 2 RBI) are other Vols threats at the plate.
Tennessee's pitching staff has allowed a combined ERA of 2.70, fifth best in the SEC. Vol pitchers have struck out 154 batters this season, last in the SEC. On the plus side, UT pitchers have allowed the fewest total hits in the SEC. However, both the aforementioned stats are likely skewed by the fact that the Vols have pitched by far the fewest number of innings (183.2) in the conference. That's about 20 innings less than the 13th place team in innings pitched (Alabama, 203.0).
Right handed Brett Marks (2-2, 1.38 ERA) is scheduled to pitch on Friday. Marks is a solid pitcher and leads the Vols in strikeouts with 42. Last week against Georgia Marks pitched 8 1/3 innings and fanned seven Bulldogs while allowing just four hits and two walks. Marks fastball reaches about 90 mph and he is accurate and cool on the mound. Marks was drafted in the 22nd round by Yankees in 2012.
Lefty Drake Owenby (1-3, 2.20 ERA) is slated to face Walker Buehler on Saturday. In 32 2/3 innings Owenby has allowed 28 hits and eight earned runs while striking out 27. Last week against the Bulldogs Owenby allowed just four hits, no walks and no earned runs in a 12-7 loss to Georgia.
RHP Hunter Martin (1-0, 2.16 ERA) is a local product of Murfreesboro (Blackman HS) who will pitch on Sunday. A sophomore, he's still young and getting used to college ball. Martin, has a fastball that reaches into the low to mid 90s. He has allowed 16 hits and four earned runs in 16 2/3 innings pitched this season.
LHP Zach Warren (2-0, 2.63 ERA), RHP Jacob Westphal (0-1, 3.60 ERA), and LHP Andy Cox (0-1, 3.71 ERA) are some of the key Vol relievers.
Big righty Andrew Lee (2.38, 1-0) leads the Vols in saves with four.
SEC THIS WEEK
Tennessee at Vanderbilt
Alabama at Florida (Thursday-Saturday)
Auburn at Mississippi State
Georgia at South Carolina
Kentucky at LSU
Missouri at Texas A&M
Ole Miss at Arkansas (Thursday-Saturday)
Talk Commodore baseball in the Vanderbilt baseball FORUM.