Vanderbilt baseball faced the kind of series that it hasn’t been winning this year. But the Commodores went to Athens and took the series from Georgia, a near-lock to be in a NCAA regional.
In the opener on Friday, Vanderbilt (31-15, 12-12 SEC) won a back-and-forth, high-scoring contest for the first time this year, hanging on 11-9 in a game it never trailed. On Saturday, the Commodores jumped on Bulldogs ace Jonathan Cannon early and took a lead into the seventh inning, but the bullpen imploded in a 13-7 loss. But Vanderbilt rebounded in the rubber match on Sunday, winning 4-0 to pick up its nation-leading ninth shutout. In finding different ways to win the two victories of the series, the Commodores picked up by far their best series victory of 2022.
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Starting pitching shakeup
The Commodores’ Friday and Saturday pitching situations have been relatively stable, but against the Bulldogs (32-16, 13-11) they changed up the rotation. Sophomore Christian Little was tabbed for the Friday start, his first of the year. He was solid for four innings, allowing three runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. After Little, a combination of junior Nick Maldonado and sophomore Nelson Berkwich struggled to get outs and weren’t aided by two errors from the defense, but junior closer Thomas Schultz shut the door in the eighth by putting out a bases-loaded jam with one out.
Junior Chris McElvain and freshman Carter Holton were each pushed back one day to Saturday and Sunday. McElvain pitched six innings and allowed four runs, though just two were earned, and Holton turned in one of his best SEC starts of the season with six scoreless innings, two walks and five strikeouts.
The bullpen had some uncharacteristic struggles, though. On Saturday, sophomore Patrick Reilly gave up the go-ahead two-run home run and took the loss without recording an out. Then, sophomore Donye Evans gave up five runs in just ⅔ of an inning. Freshman Ryan Ginther, appearing in his first SEC game of the season, gave up two runs (one earned) in 1⅓ innings.
Maldonado had a bounce-back outing on Sunday, pitching two scoreless innings.
Keegan leads offense
The offense, which has struggled as of late, managed to stay consistent, tallying double-digit hits in the first two games.
First baseman Dominic Keegan led the way with five hits and seven RBIs across the three games, three of which were home runs. Right fielder Spencer Jones extended his hitting streak to 18 with six hits, while outfielder Javier Vaz had five hits, including a home run on Friday and a crucial two-run double on Sunday. Center fielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. had seven hits in the series and stole four bases. He is now 32-for-32 on the season.
Second baseman Tate Kolwyck left Friday’s game with an apparent wrist injury, the same wrist that has been bothering him throughout the season. He did not appear in Saturday’s game and was a ninth-inning defensive replacement Sunday. According to the SEC Network broadcast, there were no fractures found.
Left fielder Calvin Hewett exited Saturday’s game early and did not play Sunday with a hand / wrist issue.
Left-hander Hunter Owen has not been used since the Auburn series in early April with an undisclosed injury. It is unclear if there is a timetable for his return.
Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @aria_gerson.