Vanderbilt ace pitcher Sonny Gray has been on a roll all season, and his run for the Commodores did not stop against the Belmont Bruins.
Belmont, in its first NCAA tournament game in baseball, could not get past Gray Friday night, as the Commodores shut out the Bruins 10-0 in front of a sold-out crowd Hawkins Field.
Gray, who was perfect through four and two-thirds of his six innings pitched, had full command, Belmont head coach Dave Jarvis said.
“I feel like Sonny came in with extremely good stuff today. He pitched 94 [mph] and above. He did it consistently, and at the same time, still pitching into contact,” Jarvis said. “That’s what guys in the big leagues do.”
While Gray was pitching remarkably, the Vanderbilt rout started early with two quick runs in the first inning off a Curt Casali double to right, and the hits just kept coming.
The ‘Dores had racked up eight runs by the end of the fourth; the Bruins failed to get on base until the fifth. Gray, with a fastball in the mid 90s and a curveball in the 80s, kept the Bruins making contact, but not allowing hits on his pitches.
“We put the ball in play. We hit them hard; they just didn’t go our way,” said second baseman Greg Brody, who got the first hit off Gray with a single in the fifth. But by then, Vanderbilt was up 8-0.
Following the two runs in the first and a string of doubles, Vanderbilt struck again in the fourth on a Jason Esposito single after a Mike Yastrzemski single, steal, and advance on a wild pitch. They followed with three singles, two errors by errant Matt Hamann throws, and two sacrifice flies.
“A good team goes for the throat in that situation, and that’s what they did when they put up that six-spot,” Jarvis said.
The Brody single broke up Gray’s perfect game, but it only got the Bruins to first base. After a 10-pitch at-bat in the sixth, the Bruins got on base with another Zac Mitchell single. Derek Hamblen followed with another single, but was held at first.
After the Commodores added two runs in the sixth, putting them up 10-0, Hamann was pulled. He allowed seven earned runs on 14 hits in five and a third innings.
By the end of the game, the Bruins were yet to cross the plate. The closest the Bruins came was in the seventh as they loaded the bases. At that point, Gray had been relieved after six scoreless innings. Belmont loaded the bases again in the ninth, but failed to score.
After the loss, Belmont’s first shutout since May 3, the Bruins will face the Oklahoma State Cowboys Saturday at 2 p.m. in the loser’s bracket. The Cowboys lost to the Troy Trojans 9-2 Friday afternoon.
The Bruins plan to start sophomore Chase Brookshire in Saturday’s game. The team is in survival mode yet again, Jarvis said. After a slow start required a remarkable run even to make the regional, it’s a familiar place.
“We’re fighting for our lives just like usual,” Hamann, who took the loss, said. “We’re love being in the spot, and we’re going to thrive on it.
Jarvis is confident his offense has enough to beat the Cowboys, despite the first-round shutout.
“I’m not panicked about it,” he said. “I know they’re going to throw quality arms out there. But I like our offense. We’ve got the capability of generating offense and have done so all year long, so it’ll be a good baseball game tomorrow. We’re excited about the opportunity.”
View photos from the game at Belmont Vision’s Flickr account. http://www.flickr.com//photos/belmontvision/sets/72157626880023502/show/