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Gasp! Vanderbilt wins an SEC championship
Powerhouse Commodores baseball team takes crown

By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer

HOOVER — The Vanderbilt Commodores showed they have another asset besides pitching, hitting and defense.

“We can take a punch,” said coach Tim Corbin, and they can also hit back.

The Commodores captured their first Southeastern Conference tournament title in 27 years with a 7-4 win over Arkansas on Sunday, becoming the first SEC team to successfully negotiate a stretch of five win-or-else games.

“We got knocked to the floor but we got back up,” Corbin said. “When you’ve got a resilient group, you know it.”

The top-seeded Commodores (51-11) hope they’re just getting started. They are a sure bet to receive one of the eight national seeds awarded Monday and will be among the favorites for an NCAA title.

“It feels great to win a tournament of this caliber, but we’ve still got plenty of season left,” tournament MVP Pedro Alvarez said.

Arkansas (41-19) is also hoping to receive a national seed, and Corbin said he believes the Razorbacks are worthy.

Ryan Flaherty doubled twice, Shea Robin drove in two runs and Vandy had little trouble against an Arkansas pitching staff that had been dominant all week. The Commodores are the first team to win after dropping the first game since the tournament adopted the current format in 1996.

The tournament’s top two seeds were both awarded NCAA regional sites before the game.

The Razorbacks had allowed only two runs in breezing through their first three tournament games, with stellar starting performances. Their confidence wasn’t diminished by Sunday’s outcome.

“You come in here and win three in a row and you go against the No. 1 team in the nation and have a chance to win,” said Danny Hamblin, who set the school mark with his 57th career home run. “That feels good going into a regional. This week was real good for us.”

Left fielder Matt Meingasner turned in two big plays late. First, he gunned down pinch-runner Matt Willard at the plate for the third out in the eighth to save a run. Then, he tripled and scored an insurance run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Ryan Davis.

Vandy pounced on freshman starter Dallas Keuchel with a four-run first — three of them unearned — and pounded out 12 hits, while turning two double plays.

Brett Jacobson pitched the final 2 1/3 innings and struck out two of three batters in the ninth for Vandy. He ended it by chasing down a grounder by Ben Tschepikow and throwing him out at first.

Arkansas is the first team to play in the championship games of football, basketball and baseball since the league started playing a football championship game in 1992. A more dubious distinction: going 0-for-3 in those games, and in baseball tournament title games.

Vandy, meanwhile, is the first No. 1 seed to win the tournament since Alabama in 1997 and the second Eastern Division team to manage that feat since 1996.

All-tourney team from SEC

Catcher: Shea Robin,
Vanderbilt

First base: Danny Hamblin, Arkansas

Second base: Tony Delmonico, Tennessee

Third base: Pedro Alvarez, Vanderbilt

Shortstop: Ryan Flaherty, Vanderbilt

Outfield: Dominic de la Osa, Vanderbilt; Casey Coon, Arkansas; Justin Henry, Mississippi.

Designated hitter: Jeff Lockwood, Tennessee.

Pitcher: Nick Schmidt, Arkansas; Jess Todd, Arkansas.

Tournament MVP: Pedro Alvarez, Vanderbilt.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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