Baseball: Vanderbilt hosts Tennessee

The Vanderbilt baseball team faces another critical conference series this weekend when they host rival Tennessee. Vanderbilt needs a solid performance in order to ensure their place in next week's SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Ala.


Vanderbilt (31-21, 12-14 SEC)
vs. Tennessee (23-29, 8-19 SEC)
Thursday, May 14 • 6 p.m.
Friday, May 15 • 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 16 • Noon

Radio: 560 AM WNSR.

TV: CSS will televise Saturday's contest.

Venue: Hawkins Field (3,700) ; Nashville, Tenn.

Series History vs. Tennessee

Tennessee leads 162-139-2 in a series that dates back to 1897. Vanderbilt has swept the last two regular season series and has won eight of the last nine matchups dating back to 2006. VU leads
46-40 in games played in Nashville.
The Coaches
VU's Tim Corbin is 270-151 in his seventh season in Nashville. He is 376-289 in 13 seasons overall.  He is 15-5 against the Volunteers.

Tennessee's Todd Raleigh is 50-58 in his second season in Knoxville and is 307-267 in 10 seasons overall. He is 0-3 against Vanderbilt.
Tentative Pitching Matchups

VU Fr. RHP Sonny Gray (4-1, 4.74 ERA) vs. UT Jr. LHP Nick Hernandez (2-5, 5.58 ERA)
VU Jr. LHP Mike Minor (5-4, 3.72 ERA) vs. UT TBA
VU Jr. RHP Drew Hayes (4-3, 5.72 ERA) vs. UT TBA

Scouting Tennessee
Tennessee is 23-29 overall and 8-19 in Southeastern Conference play after dropping two of three against South Carolina last weekend in Knoxville. The Vols defeated Middle Tennessee, 5-4 in 11 innings, in Murfreesboro Tuesday night as first baseman Cody Hawn hit a solo homer in the top of the 11th.

Hawn is UT's top offensive performer with a .350 batting average to go with 19 homers and 74 RBI. Catcher Blake Forsythe is hitting at a .346 clip with 14 homers and 43 RBI. As a team the Vols sport a .283 batting average to go with 82 homers and 360 runs scored in 52 games (6.9 per game).

Left-hander Nick Hernandez (3-5, 5.42 ERA) is slated to go on Friday, with the Saturday and Sunday starters to be determined. UT's staff has a 6.28 ERA, 11th in the SEC, with 465 strikeouts and 199 walks in 456.0 innings.

Scouting Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt went 4-1 on the week with a midweek doubleheader sweep over Belmont and a series win over Georgia in Athens over the weekend … The Commodores magic number is two to reach their fourth straight Southeastern Conference tournament and sixth in seven seasons under Tim Corbin. Two wins or a win and Kentucky loss would solidify a spot in the eight-team field. Depending on outcomes this week, VU could finish as high as sixth and as low as ninth … After a rough week at South Carolina, the Commodore pitching staff rebounded with a stellar five games, posting a 3.15 team ERA with 45 strikeouts and 19 walks in 40.0 innings of work with two complete games … Nick Christiani started the solid week out with a complete game shutout over Belmont on Tuesday ... Sonny Gray made his first collegiate start Friday night in Athens and held No. 12 Georgia to just one run on three hits (all singles) in six innings to pick up the win. He struck out seven and walked four in moving to 4-1 on the year …  Minor threw his first complete game of the year in a series clinching win over No. 12 Georgia on Saturday in Athens. He struck out 12 batters, one off his career high, while allowing two runs on five hits with two walks. He held the Bulldogs hitless and scoreless in seven of the nine innings pitched as UGA scored a run on three hits in the fourth and another on two hits in the eighth … Grayson Garvin (0.2), Richie Goodenow (0.2) and Chase Reid (0.1) did not allow a run in their appearances on the week … The pitchers held a powerful Georgia lineup to just eight runs on the weekend, four coming in the series finale on Sunday. The Bulldogs were limited to just a .185 batting average while striking out 32 times in 26.0 innings … Offensively the Commodores jumped out to 4-0 leads in the first inning of both the Friday and Saturday wins over Georgia. The team hit .318 on the week with four homers, eight doubles and 33 runs scored … Aaron Westlake led the Commodores to a 4-1 week, going 10-for-17 (.588) with two homers, five RBI and seven runs scored. He vaulted into the SEC batting title lead with a 7-for-11 (.636) weekend against Georgia, with two homers, five RBI and five runs scored. He now leads the conference with a .395 batting average along with six homers and 44 RBI … Andrew Giobbi went 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer, two doubles and six RBI … Freshman Riley Reynolds was 8-for-21 (.381) with a double and five RBI, while fellow frosh Joe Loftus went 6-for-16 (.375) with a RBI and three runs scored … The Commodores close out the regular season against in-state rival Tennessee starting on Thursday at Hawkins Field. Prior to Saturday's game the Commodores will honor seniors Nick Christiani and Jonathan White. The two along with redshirt junior Brian Harris graduated from Vanderbilt on Monday morning.

SEC Tournament Scenarios

Heading into the final weekend, Vanderbilt can finish as high as sixth and as low as ninth after the dust settles Saturday night. To a clinch a spot in the field of eight next week in Hoover, the Dores will have to hold off Kentucky which is a game and a half back with three games left to play. VU's magic number is two, if the team wins two against Tennessee they will clinch a spot no matter what the Wildcats do. If the Dores win one, Kentucky would have to sweep Florida in Gainesville, with one loss ending its hopes for Hoover.

Vanderbilt could finish as high as sixth if they were to sweep the Vols and Ole Miss takes two of three at Arkansas and either South Carolina or Georgia sweeps the other in the series in Columbia.

Kentucky's hope to finish eighth would be to take a minimum of two games at Florida and for the Commodores to get swept, or to sweep the Gators and have the Vols take two against VU.

The SEC tourney picture will get significantly clearer after Thursday night's contests around the league.

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