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Superb pitching propelled a successful start for Vandy

48 days ago
Vanderbilt Athletics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - While Vanderbilt's bid to repeat as College World Series champions was put on hold for another season due to the COVD-19 global pandemic, the Commodores reached several high points during their 18-game campaign in 2020.

We'll take a look at a few notables and other interesting tidbits from the season.

FRESHMAN 15

  • Vanderbilt's 15-member freshman class made its mark with 13 hitting the diamond.
  • True freshmen pitchers registered a 1.44 ERA alongside an 84-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 68.2 innings. Sam Hliboki did not allow a run in 15.2 innings while Thomas Schultz (13.2 innings) and Michael Doolin (10.1 innings) permitted just one.
  • Commodore freshmen accounted for 37 percent (37 of 99) of the team's RBIs, 36 percent (59 of 65) of hits and 35 percent of runs (34 of 98). Carter Young finished second on the team with 12 RBIs while batting .328. Parker Noland added 11 RBIs and CJ Rodriguez batted .289 in 12 starts.

ARSENAL OF ARMS

  • Vanderbilt pitching was among the best in the country to start the season. The staff led the nation with a 1.84 ERA and was third in hits allowed per nine innings (5.51).
  • Commodore starters went 10-3 with a 1.89 ERA while limiting opponents to a .167 average. In 90.1 innings, the group registered a 127-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio. At home, starters went 9-1 with a 1.44 ERA in 62.1 innings.
  • Friday starter Mason Hickman (2-0) was lights out, limiting opponents to one earned run in 18.2 innings while finishing with a 0.48 ERA. Ethan Smith (3-0) led Vanderbilt in wins and registered a 1.42 ERA. Jack Leiter (2-0) touted a 1.72 ERA in 15.2 innings and Kumar Rocker (2-1) finished with a 1.80 ERA, permitting three runs in 15 innings.

TREND SETTERS

  • Vanderbilt pitching allowed three-or-fewer runs in 14 of the last 15 games including four straight.
  • Harrison Ray reached base in 17 of 18 games. Cooper Davis reached base in 16 of 18 games.
  • Vanderbilt held its opponents to two-or-fewer runs 11 times, finishing 10-1 in those contests.
  • Vanderbilt committed nine errors on opening weekend. In 15 games since that time, they committed eight errors in 519 chances (.985 fielding percentage).

MIDWEEK MINDSET

With its 11-2 win against Toledo, in what would be the final game of the season, Vanderbilt improved to 21-1 in its last 22 midweek games dating to May 15, 2018. The Commodores, who went 6-0 in the midweek during 2020, batted .316 in those matchups. Austin Martin led the way with a .526 average (10-for-19) and seven RBIs. Ty Duvall and Young each batted .381 and contributed six RBIs each. The Commodores will enter 2021 riding a 13-game home midweek win streak. The last home midweek loss was Feb. 27, 2019, (10 innings) vs. Austin Peay. PHOTO GALLERY: Vanderbilt blasts past Toledo in season finale

THE I.T. FACTOR

  • Vanderbilt right fielder Isaiah Thomas clubbed a two-out, three-run walk-off home run in the 11th inning March 1 to vault Vanderbilt to its most memorable win of the shortened season. The long ball lifted the Commodores to a 7-5 victory and series win.
  • The walk-off homer was the first for a Commodore since JJ Bleday's heroics in Game 2 of the 2018 NCAA Nashville Super Regional.
  • The Commodores trailed by two entering the home half of the 11th inning and were in danger of dropping their first home series since April 27-29, 2018, vs. South Carolina.
  • Thomas struck two home runs on the day and finished tied for the team lead with four multi-RBI games.

SLINGING SHUTOUTS

  • Vanderbilt recorded four shutouts in its first 10 games. It marked the most in the first 10 contests since the 1971 Commodores blanked five opponents.
  • The Commodores shut out three straight teams from Feb. 18-21. The stretch was the longest since March 15-19, 2011.
  • During that three-game period, the Commodores held South Alabama and Illinois-Chicago to a .101 average (9- for-89) including .111 (3-for-27) with runners aboard.

SENIOR LEADERS

  • Vanderbilt seniors Duvall and Ray helped guide a lineup that returned just three positional starters. The duo was tied - alongside Thomas - for the team lead with four multi-RBI games.
  • Ray reached base in 14 consecutive games to open the season, drawing seven walks and collecting 13 hits while helping Vanderbilt to an 11-3 record during the stretch. His speed was on full display highlighted by a team-best nine stolen bases in 11 tries.
  • In 16 appearances, Duvall logged six multi-hit games and totaled 10 RBIs. The Lebanon, Ohio, native collected two hits in three consecutive games from Feb. 19-22 and added a three-hit performance vs. Saint Louis on Feb. 26.

MARTIN MASHES

  • Martin showed no signs of slowing during his standout season. The nation's top MLB Draft prospect (Perfect Game) led the Commodores in runs (15) and hits (20).
  • The Jacksonville, Florida, product paced Vanderbilt in average (.377) and finished tied with Davis for a team-best eight multi-hit performances.
  • Martin was the SEC's toughest batter to strike out in 2020, doing so just twice in 53 at-bats.

NAME TO KNOW

  • It's pronounced "luh-bo-kee." To say Hliboki, a freshman, impressed would be an understatement. The right-hander did not allow a run in 15.2 innings and permitted just two hits.
  • Hliboki held opponents to a .043 average alongside a 16-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a team-best two saves.
  • The Los Angeles native saved his best performance for last, tossing five hitless relief innings in his homecoming at No. 6 UCLA on March 6.

COOP CAPITALIZES

  • After missing significant time each of the last two seasons due to injury, Davis ignited the Commodore offense in 2020.
  • The Mississauga, Ontario, native, who reached base in 16 of 18 games, led the Commodores with 24 hits while batting .348 (24-for-69). He opened his season with a nine-game hit streak and 14-game on-base streak.
  • Davis finished 5-for-5 in stolen bases and led the club with eight bunt base hits.