Baseball edges Arkansas 4-3

May 21, 2010

Head Coach Tim Corbin

Sonny Gray

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NASHVILLE­­--- Curt Casali's RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted Vanderbilt to a 4-3 win over Arkansas Thursday night at Hawkins Field.

The Commodores won their seventh straight game to improve to 40-13 overall and 16-10 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Razorbacks dropped their fifth straight game to fall to 36-15 and 16-12 in league action.

With the game tied at 3-3, Jason Esposito reached on a single to start the seventh and then stole second base. Aaron Westlake sacrificed him over to third and Curt Casali then singled him with the go-ahead run.

Sonny Gray (8-4) picked up the win allowing three runs on seven hits in eight innings with nine strikeouts, while Chase Reid closed out the game in the ninth to notch his first save of the year.

"I felt good throughout the week and I didn't throw a lot of pitches in my last start," said Gray. "I was asked by our coaches if I felt good going out for the ninth inning, but I felt tired and felt that it would be for the best of the team to put in Chase (Reid) and he shut the door and got the big double play to end the game."

After giving up the three runs in the second, Gray then held Arkansas scoreless from the third to eighth innings before giving way to Reid in the ninth.

"He (Gray) was able to get over the hump of the second inning and got himself going," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "The thing that has been consistent about that young man is that whenever he has a tough early inning he has been able to overcome it and get close to the end of the game. He was able to extend himself and get more competitive as time went on."

Aaron Westlake's opposite field two-run homer in the first staked the Commodores to an early 2-0 lead. Jason Esposito reached base safely for the 16th straight time with a two-out double before Westlake's ninth homer of the year.

Arkansas stormed back with three runs in the second to take a 3-2 lead. Bo Bigham singled with one out and Sonny Gray issued back-to-back walks to Travis Sample and Tim Carver to load the bases. Monk Kreder then lined a two-run single to left-center to tie the game at 2-2. Gray struck out Matt Reynolds before Collin Kuhn singled to left on an 0-2 pitch to the Razorbacks a 3-2 lead.

Bryan Johns two-out RBI double in the bottom of the fourth tied the game up at 3-3. Curt Casali singled to lead off the inning but Arkansas starter Drew Smyly struck out Andrew Giobbi and Joe Loftus to get within an out of preserving the lead. Johns then doubled down the left field line to score Casali and knot the game up.

Smyly allowed three runs on six hits in five innings of work with six strikeouts and a walk in the no-decision.

Reliever DJ Baxendale (0-2) allowed one run on five hits in three innings of relief with a strikeout in the loss.

Esposito reached on a infield single in the third but struck out looking in the fifth to end his streak of reaching base safely at 17 straight times, one shy of the NCAA record of 18 set by Cal State Northridge's Shaun Larkin in 2002. He finished the night 3-for-4 with two runs scored.

Connor Harrell had three hits and Bryan Johns and Casali added two hits of their own in the winning effort.

"We had a good game with Sonny (Gray) going eight strong innings and our defense was pretty good too," said Casali. The first inning we were able to pounce on them and get two runs, but they came on strong and it looked like one of those games where you would have to score a lot of runs to win. But our defense showed up and we had some timely hitting to get the win."

Collin Kuhn and Bo Bigham led the Razorbacks with two hits each.

The two teams play the second game of the three game set tomorrow at 6 p.m. Junior right-hander Taylor Hill (5-3, 3.57 ERA) will take the mound for VU, while the Razorbacks will throw senior right-hander Mike Bolsinger (5-3, 4.66 ERA).

Eight Vanderbilt seniors will be honored prior to the game at 5:45 p.m.



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