After a sloppy start in the field, Vanderbilt couldn’t wake up the bats in time and lost to the No. 23 Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 6-4 at Hawkins Field on Tuesday night.
The loss extended their losing streak to six games and was their second-straight loss to Tennessee Tech dating back to last season.
TTU scored six runs in the first three innings, including three runs in the first frame. Starting pitcher Reid Schaller struggled through just two innings of work, giving up 7 hits and three earned runs.
Vanderbilt stranded a grand total of 16 baserunners on the night.
“Too many breakdowns after leadoff hitters got on,” coach Tim Corbin said of the team’s tendency to strand runners. “We had first and second no outs, we had first and second one out, we had two leadoff doubles, so we’re putting ourselves in pretty positive positions at the beginning of innings. But there’s too many two-strike breakdowns after that. I think we would have walked four times on ball four but we swung at it.
“We just put ourselves in a tough position, but at this point we’re just looking for some positive things that are happening on the field and there are some positive things there. We stopped them from scoring after inning three and offensively there were some kids who had some pretty good at-bats tonight against a pretty good closer.”
Right out of the gate, Vanderbilt struggled to get out of its own way. A booted ground ball by first baseman Garrett Blaylock followed by an infield single by Trevor Putzig gave Tennessee Tech the first two baserunners of the game. A single to right field by Kevin Strohschein loaded the bases before a passed ball and single up the middle brought all three runs across.
“Well, we weren’t ready at first play, that’s the first thing,” Corbin said of the disastrous first inning. “The leadoff hitter got on, then a chopped hit, then after that I thought they did a really nice job of two-strike hitting, driving the ball the other way, not trying to do too much, they understood Reid’s velocity, they didn’t try to overswing. They’re a good hitting team, but he became predictable and because he became predictable, there really wasn’t a pitch that he could do them away with, so they just put the fastball in play.”
Schaller started to settle in temporarily after that, striking out two before getting Brennon Kaleiwahea to fly out to JJ Bleday in right field and mercifully end the inning.
The hit parade continued in the second inning for the Golden Eagles, however, as more hits by Putzig and Strohschein plated two more runs. Tech also got more help on infield hits as a slow-rolling short ground ball by Chase Chambers proved too tough for the Vanderbilt infielders.
Bleday got himself reacquainted rather quickly in his first appearance since March 27 with a double down the left field line in the top of the second inning. However, he was stranded along with Stephen Scott when Blaylock skied a can of corn to center field to end the inning. TTU lead 5-0 after two innings.
Corbin was impressed with Bleday’s comeback, as he went 1-2 with three walks.
“I thought the first at-bat was old JJ Bleday,” he said. “It was a two-strike bat, he stayed inside the ball and drove it down the line. Getting on base and reading pitches. JJ is a pretty wise hitter. He is, we’ve missed him for awhile and we need more guys like him.”
A two-out single by Alex Junior plated another to extend Tech’s lead to 6-0 in the top of the third with reliever Tyler Brown on the mound for the Commodores. In the bottom of the third, Vanderbilt loaded the bases with two outs but couldn’t get any runners across as Bleday grounded out to first base to end the inning.
Vanderbilt had yet another chance to get runs across in the bottom of the fourth with two runners on base with two outs. However, Ethan Paul was caught looking at strike three to end the threat (if there really ever was one). The Commodores got their first run in 16 innings dating back to their series vs. Auburn when Philip Clarke launched a ball into the right field bleachers to cut the score to 6-1 in the fifth.
That would be it on the inning, however, as the Commodores would not threaten again that inning aside from a Bleday walk.
While the Commodore pitchers seemed to settle down after pitching three straight scoreless innings, the Vanderbilt bats had yet to liven up going into the bottom of the sixth inning. Stephen Scott doubled to open up the inning, but three straight strikeouts left him stranded to finish the inning.
The Commodore bats slowly woke up from their slumber in the eighth when Jayson Gonzalez delivered an RBI single up the middle to cut the deficit to 6-2. A hit batter loaded the bases for Blaylock, who grounded out to first base to end the inning.
Vanderbilt stranded two runners in the eighth and failed to score, but had a chance to sneak back into it in the ninth. Bleday got on base with a leadoff walk, and after a Gonzalez strikeout, Scott roped a double to right field to put two runners in scoring position. Blaylock grounded out to first to score Bleday to cut it to 6-3 with two outs. Austin Martin hit a hard grounder that ricocheted off of the shortstop’s glove to score Scott and cut the deficit to two. Paul struck out to end the comeback attempt.
Corbin made sure to give credit to Tech, who tied a school record with their 41st win of the season on Tuesday.
“That’s a good team, that’s real,” Corbin said. “That’s a good, older, offensive team that is coached really well. Matt [Bragga] does a hell of a job with those kids. He really does. They believe, they’re confident, you can just tell. You don’t win 41 games out of 47 games, regardless of who you play. That type of consistency is tough to do and he’s got a really good situation. My hats off to him.”
Looking for their first win of the month, the team will travel to Knoxville to take on rival Tennessee in a three-game set with their tournament hopes in need of a good shot of cortisone.