Vanderbilt rode a dominant start from Kyle Wright in a 2-0 victory against the No. 12 Florida Gators on Friday night. The Commodores mustered two runs on 11 hits off of starting pitcher Brady Singer, who entered the game with an impressive 1.60 ERA.
Wright, who has struggled this season, looked much more like an ace that he had entered the season as and earned just his second win of the year. He struck out a career-high 13 batters in the complete game shutout, allowing just two hits during the night. It took him just 99 pitches to finish the game.
“Breaking ball command,” Wright said about what made the difference in this game. “That’s been a pitch I’ve kind of struggled with command pretty much this whole year and this week just got a minimal mechanical tweak that allowed me to get that big breaker back.”
Neither team really threatened offensively until Vanderbilt loaded the bases in the fourth inning with just one out. Will Toffey doubled to right field following a Harrison Ray infield single, putting both men in scoring position. Julian Infante then drew a walk, but Stephen Scott struck out and Reed Hayes grounded out to end the inning.
Florida got a man on third in the fifth inning after a leadoff single after two strikeouts, but Wright struck out Florida designated hitter Jonathan India to end the inning. Florida’s only other baserunners came in the first inning on a two out single and to lead off the ninth. Neither of them got past first base.
Vanderbilt would put a run on the board later in that inning. Jason Delay, who had lined a double to right field to open the inning, as part of a 3-4 day at the plate. Ethan Paul, who played in his first game since March 28 because of an injury, moved Delay to third on a single but was thrown out trying to advance to second. Then Kaiser laid down a terrific bunt to score Delay and made it safely to first on a throwing error by the catcher.
“It’s important, it’s definitely a momentum swing to score first,” Delay said about his fifth inning run. “That’s one of our team goals.”
The Commodores would pick up another run in the seventh inning via a Kendall sacrifice fly to center field. Three singles from Delay, Paul and Kaiser opened the inning, giving Kendall the opportunity to double Vanderbilt’s lead.
“In order to win that game, we almost had to match one another,” head coach Tim Corbin said. “The difference was a bunt, the difference was a sac fly.”
After Vanderbilt allowed leadoff baserunners in six straight innings yesterday, which led to their loss, Wright only faced that issue twice. This efficiency also kept the bullpen out of the game after Vanderbilt used four relief pitchers yesterday.
“I know last night we used several of our guys,” Wright said. “So that was kind of my goal, to go as deep as possible and keep the arms in the bullpen.”
Wright seems to enjoy playing against the Gators, as he also pitched a three hit shutout against them last year on May 14. He surpassed his season-high in innings pitched (7), which he put up nearly a month ago against Ole Miss and didn’t walk a batter for the second time this year.
While Wright pitched Vanderbilt to victory, Singer also through a complete game but was credited with the loss. He allowed two runs on 11 hits, while striking out eight Commodore batters. However, that would not be enough to beat Wright.
“When you’re doing well, it’s fun to play baseball,” Wright said.
Vanderbilt will face Florida again on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. to determine the series.