Vanderbilt might be down 2 starting pitchers vs. Arkansas

Vanderbilt pitcher Carter Holton throws during a game against Arkansas on Sunday, May 15, 2022, in Fayetteville.

Sixth-ranked Vanderbilt will be shorthanded on the mound for its series against second-ranked Arkansas this week, but how much so has yet to be determined. 

Speaking on WPRT-FM in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said the Commodores will be without left-handed starter Carter Holton and the status is undetermined for left-handed starter Hunter Owen. 

“We’ll be without Holton and I don’t know if we’ll be without Owen, but they started off our No. 1 and 2,” Corbin said. “You don’t want to go into any situation limping, but it gives other kids opportunities to get into those roles and pitch for us, and that’s a good thing for them. And it could be a great thing for your team, too, depending on their development.” 

Holton (4-1, 4.11 ERA) was a late scratch for a start at Florida last week and missed a series against Missouri in early April with soreness, according to The Tennesseean. In his three starts since, Holton has allowed 12 earned runs in 13 combined innings against South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. 

As a freshman last season, Holton shut out Arkansas when he threw a seven-inning complete game in Fayetteville. 

Owen (4-0, 3.16) did not pitch last week at Florida due to shoulder soreness, according to The Tennesseean, which reported he twice missed starts in April due to fatigue. He pitched seven innings at Alabama on May 5 in his most recent start.

“Carter is going to need more time than Hunter,” Corbin said. “Hunter, I think he’s 50-50 on the weekend, but I know that I feel strongly about getting Hunter back. Carter, I just don’t know; I think it’s going to be week to week with him, so we’ll just wait on that one and give him the rest he needs.” 

Corbin said the Commodores (35-16, 17-10 SEC) have a lot to play for against the Razorbacks (38-13, 19-8). Vanderbilt trails Arkansas by two games in the SEC standings with three games remaining and is still in contention to win the league crown along with Florida and LSU. 

“Everything is wide open,” Corbin said. “A conference title is wide open. There’s a lot of things that could happen with us and we certainly are still in a very good position — a position that a lot of other teams would like to be in. 

“But, at the same time, there’s more to play after the regular season and you’ve just got to be aware of it. You just smartly use your pitchers and you…protect their health as much as possible knowing that their health is going to have a lot to do with whether you’re going to play at the end of the year.” 

Vanderbilt was swept at Florida last week without Holton and Owen in the rotation. The Commodores have also lost series against Alabama and Tennessee in the last four weeks after starting SEC play 13-2. 

Right-hander Patrick Reilly started the first game and right-hander Greysen Carter started the third game at Florida. Reilly allowed 8 runs on 10 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings, and Carter allowed 3 runs, 2 hits and 3 walks before he exited with 1 out in the first inning. 

Left-hander Devin Futrell, who has been in the starting rotation all season, pitched the second game against the Gators and took the loss when he allowed 5 runs, 5 hits and 1 walk in 4 1/3 innings. 

“The team that we played this weekend was probably national-championship caliber in terms of the pieces — pitching and the offense…and we really didn’t have many answers for them,” Corbin said. “They had much to do with that. I think oftentimes you look at your team and say, ‘We didn’t play well.’ There is some resistance that doesn’t allow you to play well, and it’s the opponent, and they certainly played very well. 

“Now it’s a matter of getting back here. We’ve been on the road 13 of the last 17 days. Now it’s home, which is good.” 

The Commodores are 23-5 at home, including 11-1 in SEC series against Ole Miss, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky. 

Vanderbilt was scheduled to host Middle Tennessee on Tuesday, but canceled the game due to weather.