NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Vanderbilt had waited decades in anticipation of its first-ever Southeastern Conference regular-season championship in baseball, so perhaps it was fitting that the Commodores had to wait almost an hour to celebrate it.
The Commodores had just beaten LSU 4-1 at Hawkins Field on Thursday night behind a 15-strikeout performance from David Price to clinch a share of the title. Price went 8 2/3 innings, giving up just one run on four hits. Offensively, the Commodores used a three-hit game from Shea Robin and a solo homer from Matt Meingasner to cap a 12-hit attack.
However, the Commodores, who weren't in the mood to share a title, according to their coach Tim Corbin, needed Ole Miss to defeat Arkansas in Fayetteville on Thursday to win the league outright.
With the broadcast of the Rebels-Razorbacks game piped over the Hawkins Field loudspeaker, the Commodore players, coaches and a small group of fans listened patiently to see if they'd end the night as outright champions, or need to take care of business themselves with a victory over the Tigers on Friday or Saturday to claim sole possession of the title.
The Commodore players and faithful finally got immediate gratification. The Rebels got out of a ninth-inning jam to clinch a 5-4 win over the Razorbacks, triggering a celebration among the team in left field as the moment sunk in.
Corbin listened to the final out from the steps of the dugout, cracking a smile as the gravity of the moment hit him, then raising his right fist in over his head in triumph before sprinting to join his players.
"I'm just happy for the kids," said Corbin, savoring his first title as a head coach in just his fifth season in Nashville. "I'd rather win on the field, but we did, we did it beforehand, and I'm just happy for the kids and the fans who have followed us, and I just wish Charlie Hawkins was here to see it.
"I'm really happy for the kids, and really proud of it. It's just a lot of hard work from the beginning of the year."
Price, Vandy's all-American lefty, improved his record to 10-0 and ran his season total to164 strikeouts, eclipsing the school record of 155 he established last season. Price four-hit the Tigers in 8 2/3 innings before being removed for Casey Weathers, who got a ground-out to end the game.
"[Winning the title] feels good," said Price. "We all expected it. We worked hard—really, really hard—for it, and we expected to be here."
Robin, Meingasner, and Pedro Alvarez, who had a pair of hits, all knocked in runs for Vandy, who plated single runs in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh.
Price breezed through the LSU order the first time around, striking out seven of the first nine hitters and recorded another out by picking Sean Ochinko, who reached on Ryan Flaherty's error, off first in the second.
Vandy broke on top in the second when Meingasner lofted an opposite-field fly ball to right that just got over the fence and inside the right-field foul pole for a 1-0 Vandy lead.
LSU tied the game in the fourth when Chris Jackson doubled to lead off the inning, and scored when Ochinko hit a fly ball to right to score him from third with one out.
The Commodores quickly re-took the lead in the fourth when Ryan Davis, who had an infield single with two outs, advanced to second and then took the lead on Robin's single.
Vandy added a run in the fifth when Brad French led off the inning with a single, then later scored on Alvarez's fly ball to right. The Commodores had the bases loaded in that inning with no outs, but could plate just that single run.
Vanderbilt's final run came in the seventh when Alvarez, who reached on a single to right, scored on a two-out error by second baseman Chris McGhee, who dropped an easy flip on a would-be force play at second.
Meanwhile, Price continued to mow down the Tigers, striking out two hitters in the sixth and seventh, and getting Ochinko and Nicholas Pontiff on strikes to begin the ninth.
Price then walked Jared Mitchell before coach Tim Corbin pulled him after 131 pitches, bringing on Weathers, who got a ground-out from Steve Broschofsky to register his sixth save this season.
At 20-8 in the Southeastern Conference, the Commodores also clinched the No. 1 seed in next week's SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
The teams play again at 7 p.m. on Friday night, with Vanderbilt's Mike Minor facing LSU's Ryan Byrd on the mound.