HOOVER, Ala. - No. 1 Vanderbilt rolled to a 16-8 win over No. 16 Mississippi State Saturday evening in the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met.
The Commodores (51-8) will play LSU Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in the championship game on ESPN2. It will mark the seventh time in 10 trips under head coach Tim Corbin that Vanderbilt will play in the championship game. The win over Mississippi State (43-17) makes the Commodores 4-0 against the Bulldogs this season. Vanderbilt matched season-highs in hits (19) and runs (16) in the victory.
Vanderbilt got the scoring started in the top of the second inning on a RBI-single from Zander Wiel to score Connor Harrell from second. Harrell ignited the inning by reaching on an error and Conrad Gregor reached by getting hit by a pitch. Vince Conde followed up with a RBI-double to right-center to score Gregor. With the bases loaded, Spencer Navin plated the third run of the inning after being hit by a pitch.
With no outs and the bases still loaded in the second, Tony Kemp drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. After another sacrifice fly from Xavier Turner, Mike Yastrzemski singled up the middle to plate Navin, giving VU a 6-0 lead. However, that did not end the scoring onslaught for the Commodores. Back-to-back singles from Harrell and Gregor scored Yastrzemski to make it 7-0.
The seven runs scored by Vanderbilt in the second inning matched the SEC Tournament record for runs scored in an inning.
Mississippi State starting pitcher Jacob Lindgren (4-3) only made it through one inning on the mound before being pulled. Lindgren gave up six runs on two hits, while hitting two batters and walking another.
In the third inning, John Norwood reached on a fielder's choice and then advanced all the way to third on an error by the pitcher on a pickoff attempt. Kemp proceeded to drive him in with a RBI-single to center. After three at-bats, VU led 8-0.
The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third after Hunter Renfroe singled through the middle to cut the deficit to 8-1. MSU inched closer in the fourth with back-to-back RBI-singles and then a sacrifice fly to make it 8-4.
The Commodores returned the favor by scoring five more runs in the fifth. The scoring started on Kemp's run-scoring sacrifice bunt after a leadoff single from Norwood and a single from Navin. Harrell singled to right to plate another run. The next batter, Gregor, drove in the third run of the inning on a fielder's choice. Wiel then recorded his second and third RBI of the game on a single that scored Yastrzemski and Gregor to give VU a 13-4 advantage.
MSU did not go quietly as they scored two in the bottom of the fifth and one in the sixth, to get within six runs at 13-7. VU pushed the lead back up to eight runs with two runs in the top of the seventh on a RBI-single from Harrell and a RBI-double from Gregor.
T.J. Pecoraro (4-1) started on the bump and went six innings to get the win. The junior allowed seven runs on 10 hits. Jared Miller recorded his second save of the season after three innings of work. Miller allowed one run on four hits, while striking out three hitters.
The Commodores finished the game with five two-out RBI and went 11-for-23 with runners in scoring position. All nine Commodores in the starting lineup recorded at least one hit and scored at least one run, while eight of the nine had at least one RBI.
Gregor went 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI and two runs scored. His three hits tied a season-high. Harrell finished 3-for-6 with two RBI and two runs scored, while Wiel registered a 3-for-5 day with three RBI and a run scored. Turner also had a 3-for-5 night with two RBI, two runs scored and two stolen bases. Kemp drove in three runs with a run scored and a stole base with a 2-for-4 performance. He now has 30 steals on the season to go along with 96 hits. Conde drove in his 40th run of the season, while collecting his team-leading 18th double of the year. Conde is one of four Commodores to have at least 40 RBI this season. With Kemp's RBI-single in the third inning, he extended his hitting streak to 12 games.