After a pitchers’ duel between Zach King and Jackson Gillis last Thursday in which King’s team came out victorious, the two sophomore left-handers took the mound Wednesday night for the deciding game of this four-game set.
This time it was Gillis who reigned supreme, as Team Black won Game Four by a score of 5-4, taking Vanderbilt’s annual Black and Gold series three games to one.
Gillis hurled three innings, striking out six batters and giving up just two hits. Altogether in the series, the southpaw tossed 7.2 innings, striking out a whopping 15 batters and not giving up a single run. Manager Tim Corbin has been singing Gillis’s praises throughout the fall season, hinting that he might even claim the vacant Sunday starter spot in the rotation.
Gillis issued a leadoff walk to Pat DeMarco in the first before allowing a double off the bat of Ethan Paul to give Gold second and third with nobody out. Then Gillis went to work, fanning Stephen Scott, Alex Brewer, and Ty Duvall in succession to get out of the inning unscathed.
After a quick inning from King and a 1-2-3 frame from Gillis, J.J. Bleday led off the bottom half of the second for Black with a base hit to left. After a steal of second base from Bleday and a fastball that drilled Harrison Ray in the foot, Cooper Davis poked a flare into short center field to load the bases. Austin Martin then capitalized with a line drive single to left, scoring the first run of the game. Connor Kaiser kept the rally going, lacing a two-run double off the monster in left field to give Black a three run lead in the second.
DeMarco reached base again in the top of the third, and proceeded to steal two bases to put himself within 90 feet of home plate with two away, but Gillis settled down once again, striking out Brewer to end the inning.
Reid Schaller took over for King in the third, and quickly retired the first two batters he faced. That third out proved the toughest, however, as a walk to Walker Grisanti and a single off the bat of Harrison Ray gave Black first and third. After Ray stole second, Davis drilled a single up the middle, scoring two and giving Black a five-run advantage midway through this ballgame.
Chandler Day took the mound for Black in the fourth and was immediately aided by excellent defense in the form of a diving grab in left by Grisanti to rob Alonzo Jones of a hit. He struggled after that though, as a Garrett Blaylock single advanced Ty Duvall, who had been hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. A walk to freshman first baseman Tyler Solomon loaded the bases, and two runs scored off a wild pitch and a Baltimore chop that allowed DeMarco to reach base for the third time. Paul then corked one into the gap for his second double of the game, scoring two more and drawing Gold within one run.
Paxton Stover relieved Schaller, and despite two walks in the fifth, held Black scoreless for the next two innings. Freshman right-hander Mason Hickman held serve, however, not allowing Gold to push any runs across in his two innings of work.
After Justin Willis threw a scoreless frame in the bottom of the sixth, Team Gold came up with one last chance in the top of the seventh.
David Bates came in for Black to close out the game, but Scott led off the inning with a bunt single, putting the tying run on first with no outs. After consecutive strikeouts by Bates, and a steal of second by Scott, Jones came up with an opportunity to tie the game, but promptly grounded out to second base, sealing the win for Black.