HOOVER, Ala. – Connor Harrell homered and drove in two runs and Grayson Garvin earned his 12th win of the season as No. 4 Vanderbilt defeated 20th-ranked Arkansas 3-2 on Saturday morning at Regions Park in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
With the loss, Arkansas drops to 38-20. Vanderbilt improves to 47-9 and advances to the SEC Tournament championship game where it will face either Florida or Georgia.
Garvin, the SEC Pitcher of the Year, earned his 12th win of the season, giving up two runs on nine hits with three strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
Navery Moore earned his 11th save of the year, throwing a perfect ninth inning.
Arkansas starter Cade Lynch took the loss to drop to 4-4 on the year. Lynch allowed three runs on four hits in 1.2 innings.
The Razorback bullpen kept the team in the game as relievers Colby Suggs and Barrett Astin combined to throw 6.1 shutout innings. Suggs had a dominant effort on the mound, striking out three in 4.2 hitless innings. Astin came on and gave up just one hit in 1.2 innings.
Arkansas’ bullpen was excellent throughout the entire tournament as the Razorback relief corps combined to throw 20 innings and allow just two runs, while striking out 10. After Taylor Dugas homered off Brandon Moore in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game vs. Alabama, Arkansas relief pitchers did not allow a run over the final 15 innings pitched on the weekend.
Collin Kuhn, Jarrod McKinney and Kyle Robinson each had two hits for Arkansas. Kuhn had a RBI and also scored a run. Dominic Ficociello also added a RBI.
Harrell hit his seventh home run of the season and drove in two to lead Vanderbilt offensively. Anthony Gomez added two hits and a RBI.
Vanderbilt grabbed an early lead with a run in the bottom of the first. Tony Kemp drew a leadoff walk and then stole second base. A double to the right-center field alley by Gomez brought home Kemp with the game’s first run. The Commodores eventually loaded the bases later in the inning with one out, but a timely 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Jason Esposito ended the threat and limited the damage to one run.
The Commodores added on to their lead with two runs in the bottom of the second. Conrad Gregor doubled down the left field line to start the inning and was along for the ride on Harrell’s two-run blast over the left field wall to put Vandy in front 3-0. Arkansas again avoided the big inning as Vanderbilt loaded the bases with two outs, but Suggs was able to strike out Mike Yastrzemski to end the inning.
Arkansas put together a two-run rally in the top of the sixth on four hits. With one out, Bo Bigham singled and came around to score on a triple off the left-center field wall by Kuhn. Ficociello then hit a soft grounder past the mound. Garvin fielded and flipped to first, but Aaron Westlake dropped the ball as Kuhn crossed home plate to cut the Commodore lead to 3-2. With two outs, Robinson singled to left field to put runners at the corners. Garvin escaped further trouble as Matt Reynolds hit a rope to left field that was gloved by Kemp to end the inning.
The Razorbacks had their best chance to tie the game in the seventh, putting two runners on. With one out, McKinney singled and then moved to second on a walk by Tim Carver. Vanderbilt then went to its bullpen and brought in Will Clinard, who struck out Bigham and Kuhn to end the inning.
Arkansas will now await its bid to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The 16 regional host sites will be announced at 2:30 p.m. (CT) on Sunday afternoon, while the full field will be released on Monday at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN.