Jeren Kendall powers Commodores to victory against Texas A&M

A Jeren Kendall grand slam proved to be all Vanderbilt needed Friday night

The Commodores (15-8, 2-2) won just their second weekend opening series game by defeating No. 23 Texas A&M (15-8, 0-4) in their first SEC home game. A solid start by Kyle Wright, a strong bullpen and a grand slam by Jeren Kendall powered Vanderbilt to a 4-3 victory on Friday night.

Wright, who entered the game winless, finally earned his first of the season while allowing three runs over five innings. The Aggies got six hits off of Vanderbilt’s ace and drew four walks, as they struck early with three runs over the first two innings. However, Wright would allow just two hits over the next three innings, tallying six strikeouts during the game.

“For tonight, for us to scratch a few runs and get him a W for the first time this year is nice,” Jeren Kendall said.

Just before Wright settled down, Kendall gave him the much needed run support he was missing in his previous starts. A leadoff single by Stephen Scott against Aggie starter Brigham Hill and two later walks loaded the bases for Kendall in the second inning. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Kendall saw two more pitches in the at-bat, including one that he launched for a grand slam over the right field wall.

“It’s hard to say I was really sitting on anything,” Kendall said. “With two strikes, bases loaded, you’ve just got to try to make some defense, play some defense, just to put it in play and make an aggressive run at it.”

The Commodores are no strangers to allowing their opponents to score first, as the Aggies’ first inning run marked the twelfth game an opponent scored before Vanderbilt. However, Vanderbilt improved to 9-3 in such games, compared to just 6-5 when scoring first.

As Wright maintained the lead through five innings and 110 pitches, the bullpen kept it intact for the remainder of the game. Zach King dominated the sixth inning, striking out the side, before nearly running into some problems in the seventh.

Aggie shortstop Austin Homan lined a ball into right field after a leadoff walk that ultimately ended in a fielder’s choice. Nick Choruby hesitated on the base path in between first and second, allowing for Harrison Ray to throw him out from right field. King hit the next batter and struck out the following one, as the Aggies proceeded to double steal on the next at bat. Jason Delay airmailed the throw at second but was caught in the outfield before it could get away and allow the runner on third to head home. He struck out Joel Davis for the final out to keep the lead intact.

“Harrison Ray made an outstanding play right there,” King said. “I mean a lot of courage…to come off that burst and throw a dart to second base, but he managed to do that.”

After another leadoff walk in the eighth and then a sacrifice bunt, Tim Corbin called on Reed Hayes to finish the inning. He quickly got out of the inning then came back out for a perfect ninth, protecting the bullpen for the remaining games of the series. Hayes earned his team-leading fourth save of the season by striking out one without giving up a hit or walk, while serving as the team’s designated hitter.

While Vanderbilt finally produced enough runs for a Wright win, the team only managed four hits from three batters, including two from Kendall. Jason Delay and Stephen Scott each added singles, but the Commodores left the bases empty after the fifth inning. Neither team managed to get a hit after the sixth inning, as Kendall’s second inning grand slam ended up being the final scoring play of the game.

“We won by one run tonight and if Harrison doesn’t throw that guy out at second…it’s a whole different game,” Kendall said. “So one run is a big deal.”

Vanderbilt will send Patrick Raby to the mound to face Stephen Kolek at 12:30 p.m. CT.

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