Vanderbilt's 39 victories is a school record for wins in a season (37 was the previous mark). and the 16 league wins are also the most in school history (14 was the previous mark). The Commodores' .530 winning percentage in league play is the best since the 1980 team recorded a .591 mark (13-9).
"To finish over .500 in the SEC is a nice, nice thing," VU Head Coach Tim Corbin said. "Playing well in SEC was a huge issue for us. This team has really played very consistent baseball. There were 12 games where we lost by two runs or less, so the consistency of baseball played by these guys has been phenomenal."
Vanderbilt, the No. 7 seed in the SEC Tournament, will play the No. 2 seed Georgia Wednesday at 1 pm in opening-round action.
Billy Grace put the Wildcats on the board in the first inning when he hit a solo home run off starter Matt Buschmann. Kentucky added one in the second inning for a 2-0 lead. Spencer Graeter singled to right field and Casey Gilvin drew a walk. Graeter and Gilvin both advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Jake Kungl. Graeter scored on a fielder's choice by Joe Naill when Ryan Klosterman made a diving catch to throw Naill out at first.
In the fourth inning with two away and Graeter on first, Kungl singled to left field. Both advanced on a wild pitch by VU starter Matt Buschmann and scored when Naill doubled to left center field to take a 4-0 Wildcat lead.
The Commodores got on the board in the fourth inning with three runs. Antoan Richardson led off the inning with a single up the middle. Warner Jones then hit his ninth home run of the season onto the left center field plaza to narrow UK's lead to two, 4-2. Nicolas flew out to left field and Mike Baxter followed with a walk. Baxter stole second and scored when Tony Mansolino hit a standup double to left center field that just went off left fielder Caleb Stewart's glove.
In the fifth, Shelby reached base when third baseman Mansolino's throw was off the mark to first. Shelby moved to second on Grace's ground out and then moved to third on Stewart's double to center field. With two runners in scoring position, Buschmann struck out Mike Breyman and forced Graeter to fly out to right field to end the inning.
Kentucky's Aaron Edwards led off the seventh inning with a standup double down the left field line and was replaced by pinch-runner J.B. Schmidt. Schmidt moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Shelby. Left-hander Stephen Shao then replaced Buschmann and gave up a sacrifice fly to Grace that scored Schmidt for a 5-3 Kentucky lead. Stewart then reached on a standup double down the third base line. Breyman then grounded out to first base to retire the side.
Douillard led off the seventh inning with a single down the middle and moved to second when Klosterman was hit by a pitch. Richardson drew a walk to load the bases. After Jones flied out, Nicolas then hit a ground rule double that bounced off the left field wall into the bull pen scoring Douillard and Klosterman to tie the game at 5-5. Baxter hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field scoring Richardson for Vanderbilt's first lead of the game, 6-5.
In the eighth Graeter singled to left against reliever Jensen Lewis, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Gilvin. Kungl then hit into a double play to end the inning. The Commodores scored five runs in the eighth inning, highlighted by Richardson's three-run homer over the right field fence. Jones followed that with a shot over the left field wall to set the school record for most hits in a season with 96. The previous mark was 95 held by Hunter Bledsoe in 1999.
"It was kind of a record I had in mind before the season started, so I am pretty proud of it," Jones said following the game. "I didn't feel like I was much of a darkhorse to win the title. I felt like I had a little of confidence coming in that I could do it and it was nice to actually perform on the field." Jones leads the SEC in hits and doubles and is the SEC batting leader with a .425 average.
Buschmann went 6-1/3 innings, giving up four runs (four earned) on seven hits while walking one and striking out six in the no-decision. Shao (4-0) earned the win, giving up one hit in two-thirds of an inning. Lewis earned his first save of the season, giving up just two hits while walking one and striking out two.
"We weren't aggressive with the bat and we didn't pitch particularly well to start the game," Corbin said. "But, having said that, the second half of today's game was more like the first half of yesterday's game. Big hit by Cesar (Nicolas), another big hit by Klosterman to get us going and Antoan's home run was huge. Some big hits at the end, and that's when you need them-– in the seventh and eighth innings."
Gibson went 4-2/3 innings for the Wildcats, giving up three runs on five hits while walking four and striking out two. James Rodriguez (3-6) picked up the loss, giving up seven runs (seven earned) on five hits. He struck out three and walked two.
Prior to the game, junior shortstop Ryan Klosterman received the the Jeff Peeples Most Valuable Player Award as voted on by Commodore players and coaches.
Score by Innings R H E ------------------------------------------- Kentucky............ 110 200 100 - 5 11 0 Vanderbilt.......... 000 300 35X - 11 11 1 ------------------------------------------- Win - S. Shao (4-0). Loss - J. Rodriquez (3-6). Save - J. Lewis (1). Start: 1:00 pm Time: 2:50 Attendance: 1037 Game notes: Warner Jones set single season hit record with 96. Vanderbilt's 39th win sets a school record.