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Masterful Wright Dazzles For ‘Dores

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NASHVILLE — When Kyle Wright is on — really on — no pitcher in college baseball is better. When Wright is at his very best, there is no other pitcher in college baseball that can match his combination of premium stuff and elite command.

We’ve seen that version of Wright before. We saw it in Omaha during his freshman year, when Wright made big pitch after big pitch in high-leverage situations against TCU. We saw it in back-to-back weeks on the road at Texas A&M and Florida in his sophomore year, when he threw 16 combined shutout innings, including a three-hit shutout against the Gators.

But we might have seen Wright at his very best Friday night, when he threw another three-hit shutout against Florida to lead Vanderbilt to a 2-0 win. In last year’s shutout, he struck out 10 and walked two. This time, he struck out 13 and walked nobody. Despite that lofty strikeout total, Wright needed just 99 pitches to go the distance in a truly special showcase of efficiency and overpowering stuff.

“I needed it,” Wright said.

He said it as though Friday night was a catharsis, and in many ways it was. For starters, Vanderbilt needed it, in a major way. After Florida pounded out 17 hits in a come-from-behind 10-6 win on Thursday that burned Vandy’s key bullpen arms, the Commodores needed a pick-me-up from their junior ace, and he delivered in an emphatic way.

“Knowing the feel of what happened last night, 17 hits, it was an expensive loss for us because of what happened to the bullpen,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “He just kept everyone in the garage, and that was needed. But more importantly just to be able to keep them off the scoreboard, a very, very good hitting team with a lot of at-bats and a lot of experience is not easy to do. … I’m happy for Kyle. I’m just proud and happy for him, because that’s leadership. When leadership takes the field, it becomes special.”

And then there’s the elephant that had been lurking around Hawkins Field all season — Wright hadn’t exactly performed up to his own expectations or anyone else’s expectations for him so far this season. Anyone who has watched him will tell you he’s pitched better than his numbers suggest, but the numbers were hard to ignore: Wright entered Friday with a 1-4, 4.81 mark — nowhere near what he’s capable of doing, and what he has already done in his standout collegiate career. So he needed this for himself as well as for his team.


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