ATHENS, Ga. - Vanderbilt used the ingredient of stellar hitting and strong pitching en route to an impressive 10-2 win over No. 13 Georgia in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,163 at Foley Field Friday night. VU's freshmen combination of Sonny Gray and Jack Armstrong kept one of the Southeastern Conference's best hitting teams at bay Friday as they combined to allow only two runs and four hits. Aaron Westlake added two homeruns.
With the win Vanderbilt improves to 30-20 overall and 11-13 in the SEC while Georgia falls to 33-16 overall and 14-11 in the SEC. VU has now won four of the last seven meetings between the two schools.
"Tonight's win was a boost a confidence for our team especially after last weekend," head coach Tim Corbin said. "I was pleased with the way Sonny and Jack threw on the mound tonight. I thought they both took good approaches and they did a good job of getting out of jams. "It also helps when our hitters can put a four-spot up in the first inning."
Gray was spectacular in his first collegiate start, allowing one run, three hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in six-innings of work. The strikeouts and innings pitched marked season-highs. The freshman from Smryna, Tenn., kept the UGA hitters guessing all night and appeared to get stronger as he was put in pressure situations.
Armstrong came into relieve Gray in the top of seventh and did a good job of limiting UGA's offense by battling through jams and using his defense behind him.
Vanderbilt plated two more runs in the top of the seventh to push its lead to 10-1. Steven Liddle led off the inning with a single up the middle and than advanced to second base when Curt Casali was hit by UGA reliever Justin Earls. Following Westlake's walk, Andrew Giobbi drove in his second run of the game when he reached on a fielder's choice, scoring Liddle from third. In the next at-bat, Esposito hit a sharp grounder through the middle infield to score Casali from third.
The `Dores added another run in the top of the fifth when Westlake deposited a lead-off Trevor Holder fastball half-way up the batters eye in straight away centerfield for his second homerun of the game. The longball was Westlake's sixth of the season and his fifth in his last nine games.
"I had the count in my favor a lot tonight and that gave me some good opportunities to see some good pitches," Westlake said. "I was seeing the ball well tonight off him (Holder) and was able to get some good pitches to turn on."
Vanderbilt manufactured another run in the top of the fourth when Riley Reynolds lined a single to center field to score Loftus from second base. Loftus led off the inning with a single to shortstop and than moved to second base on Brian Harris' sacrifice bunt.
The Bulldogs got its first run of the game in the bottom half of the third inning when Michael Demperio scored on Matt Cerione's single to right field, making the score 6-1 in favor of the Commodores.
The Commodores added two more runs in the top of the third when Steven Liddle scored on Giobbi's groundout and Casali came in on Esposito's single. Liddle led off the inning when he reached on a throwing error by UGA's second baseman and than advanced to second when the ball caromed around the home plate backstop. Casali drew a walk and than advanced to second on Aaron Westlake's single to left field. Georgia's Holder than got Giobbi to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, scoring Liddle from third. In the next at-bat, Esposito drove in Casali from third with a single through the left side, giving the `Dores a 6-0 lead. Both runs in the inning were unearned.
Georgia threatened to put their first runs on the board in the bottom of the second when their first two runners reached base. VU starter Sonny Gray responded by retiring the next two Bulldogs on strikeouts and than got Levi Hyams to ground out to Brian Harris at shortstop for the third out of the inning and stranding runners on second and third.
Vanderbilt got on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning when Brian Harris scored on Casali's fielder's choice. Harris started the game with a leadoff double down the leftfield line and than advanced to third on Reynolds ground out to first base. The Commodores than added some fireworks with two outs when Westlake and Andrew Giobbi launched back-to-back home runs, giving VU a 4-0 lead. Westlake drove a Holder fastball over the right field porch for a two-run shot before Giobbi launched a solo shot over the 370-foot sign in left-center for his fourth home run of the year. The Commodores sent seven guys to bat in the first frame.
Game two of the series will get underway tomorrow with opening pitch slated for 12 p.m. CT from Foley Field. Vanderbilt will send left-hander Mike Minor (4-4, 3.93 ERA) to the mound to face Georgia's southpaw Alex McRee (4-1, 3.55 ERA).
Saturday's game will be televised on CSS as Matt Stewart (play-by-play) and Buck Belue (analysis) will call the action.