May 23, 2009


CBI Live
Commodores headed to SEC title game


By Jimmy Jones

Special to 


HOOVER, Ala. - If defense is the instrument that wins championships then Vanderbilt shortstop Brian Harris (right) was maestro of the orchestra on Saturday as he made several stellar plays from a variety of spots in the middle of the field against Arkansas.
Harris was the catalyst defensively but the Commodore offense was not going to be outdone on this day as they pounded Razorback pitching from start to finish with 15 hits in their 11-1 win called by the appropriately named mercy rule. Every hitter in the VU lineup had at least one hit. Their 3-4-5 hitters (Liddle, Casali, and Westlake) were a combined 7 for 11 with four RBI and four runs in the contest.
The win puts Vanderbilt (34-24), the eighth seed coming into the tournament, into the championship game for the fourth time since 2004 on Sunday against either LSU or Georgia and improves their record to 17-8 during Coach Tim Corbin's tenure.
Caleb Cotham (6-5) (left) got the starting nod for the Commodores and turned in an outstanding performance to pick up the second SEC Tournament win of his career with seven innings of five-hit baseball. He struck out seven, allowed one earned run and walked one. It was the first compete game of his career.
"I faced Arkansas earlier in the year and it was predominately fastballs," Cotham said. "Coming into today, I felt pretty good. I was feeling pretty confident, and I felt kind of normal.
"Then, later in the game, I was getting tired, and I knew that I was going to have to pitch a little better, knowing how I have thrown before. I threw some change-ups and some sliders to keep [Arkansas hitters] honest. I had to pitch a little more than just fastballs because they are smart hitters."
Curt Casali got the Commodores going with a long solo home run to leftfield in the fourth and that opened the floodgates for his young teammates.
Aaron Westlake singled into left field and Andrew Giobbi reached on a fielder's choice.
Jason Esposito was hit by a pitch and Joe Loftus followed with an RBI hit. Harris drove in his second and third runs of the tournament with a double into the left centerfield alley.
VU kept the pressure on by putting up a three spot in the fifth. Steven Liddle led off with a single and Casali followed with his second hit of the game. Westlake made it three hits in a row to knock in Liddle for the fifth run. It was Casali's 22nd multi-hit game of the season.
Giobbi continued to swing the bat at a torrid pace with an RBI single through the left side to score Casali. After a Riley Reynolds sacrifice bunt, Jason Esposito hit a sacrifice fly to place the score at 7-0.
They would tack on two runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings to account for the final score.
The Razorbacks run came on an RBI double in the sixth by designated hitter Travis Sample to drive in Chase Leavitt who had led off the inning with a walk. The hit by Sample extended his hitting streak to six games.
Arkansas is now 7-12 in elimination games at the SEC Tournament. They are a dismal 1-5 in elimination games under current coach Dave Van Horn.
The championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sunday.

(photos by Jimmy Jones)