HOOVER, Ala. - Vanderbilt got gutsy performances from two freshman pitchers, T.J. Pecoraro and Kevin Ziomek, who combined for seven innings of one-hit, shutout baseball before the Commodores run ruled the Georgia Bulldogs Wednesday in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament.
The Commodores scored two runs in the sixth inning and four more in the seventh to go ahead 10-0 and end the game early because of the 10-run rule.
First Team All-SEC and Freshman of the Year Tony Kemp went 3-for-5 with three RBI and two stolen bases and scored three times to lead the Commodores. Third baseman Jason Esposito added three hits and drove in two runners, including a solo home run in the second inning to start things off for Vanderbilt.
Esposito said the Commodores used last weekend's loss to Georgia starter Michael Palazzone as motivation to come out and tack on as many runs as they could.
Georgia beat Vanderbilt last Thursday with Palazzone on the mound. He threw a complete-game sprinkled eight hits over nine innings.
On Wednesday, the Commodores chased Palazzone out of the game after six innings with 11 hits.
"I felt like Vanderbilt had a good approach at the plate, they got runners on and moved them over and did a good job of two-out hitting," said Palazzone.
In scoring 10 runs, and doing so in just seven innings, Vanderbilt sent a message to the SEC that it was here at the SEC Tournament to play. The Commodores didn't start one of their all-conference, weekend starters, Grayson Garvin or Sonny Gray, but opted to go with a freshman. Pecoraro and Ziomek not only provided Vanderbilt with the best pitching performance of the day, but the Commodores 10 runs were the most scored by any SEC team in the opening round of the tournament.
"We haven't lost a mid-week (game) because of those two," said Esposito. "They pitched great, they pitch to the strike zone and get a lot of outs and put us in a great position to win."
Vanderbilt will play top-ranked South Carolina on Thursday in the second game of the night session. Junior Sonny Gray will get the nod in that game.
Georgia will play Auburn in in a truer-than-normal elimination game Thursday. Both teams are under .500 overall. A loss will not only send the losing team packing from the SEC Tournament, but eliminate that team from NCAA Tournament contention.
To qualify for the NCAA Tournament, all teams must be above .500.