That’s how you snap a losing streak.
A three-run hit parade in the fourth inning and stellar relief pitching by Chandler Day propelled the Vanderbilt Commodores to a 5-3 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs on a rain-soaked Friday afternoon at Hawkins Field.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak, tied for the longest in the Tim Corbin era.
The evening’s weather forecast forced the game to be moved from 6:30 PM to 3:00 PM, allowing the game to be played in its entirety. With the memory of the fiasco at MTSU on Tuesday fresh in his mind, Corbin was ready to make the right call on Friday.
“We made the right decision with a 3:00 game,” Corbin said. “They didn’t make the right decision Tuesday. We made the right decision today. We needed to get this one in as best as we possibly could, so we did. We’re just lucky because another 10 minutes here and we’d be starting this thing and it would be tough to finish it for sure.”
Day secured the victory for the Commodores with five innings of relief work, striking out 10 batters and allowing just four hits in the process.
“I thought his last outing was kind of a lead-in to this,” Corbin said of Day. “I thought he threw the ball very effectively. He was downhill and he was mixing his pitches well, throwing a lot of strikes. He just pitched aggressively, he attacked the zone and didn’t give them much. There was a walk there at the end, but that was really it. Anything that they got, they had to earn. It was good, a very big boost for him and huge boost for our team. We just needed that.”
Outfielder Harrison Ray looked impressive as well in just his third start of the season. He had two hits, an RBI, a walk and two stolen bases.
After a quick 1-2-3 inning for starting pitcher Patrick Raby to start the game, Vanderbilt quickly got runners in scoring position thanks to an Austin Martin single and Alonzo Jones double. However, they were only able to plate Martin on a Jayson Gonzalez RBI groundout.
Georgia would respond quickly in the top of the second. With runners on second and third and one out, LJ Talley grounded out to score one and Mason Meadows roped a single right center field to score one more and give Georgia an early 2-1 lead.
Vanderbilt wouldn’t take that punch on the chin though, as Pat DeMarco hit a slump-busting home run that just got over the fence in right field to tie the game at 2-2.
In the fourth inning, it looked like Adam Sasser had himself a leadoff double, but a blistering throw from DeMarco in right field got to second base just in time for the tag and the out. Georgia did not threaten for the rest of the inning.
Vanderbilt took advantage of another opportunity in the bottom half of the inning with a massive string of hits and RBIs. A walk and groundout put Ethan Paul on second base before Stephen Scott came through with an RBI single and advanced to second on the bobbled throw home. The Commodores weren’t done, however, as the next batter, Connor Kaiser, hit one to the gap in left field to score Scott and make the score 4-2 as the rain began to come down harder at Hawkins Field.
Before the inning was done, Harrison Ray got in on the fun with an RBI single to score Kaiser and put Vanderbilt up 5-2.
That inning was a huge confidence-booster for Vanderbilt, who has struggled to put together innings like that as of late.
“We just haven’t strung those types of at-bats together in awhile, so to see five, four hits I think and a walk one right after another and running the bases pretty well, that was a good inning for us,” Corbin said. “That was a boost, and just happened to be at the same time in the bottom of the fourth. Led to the fifth and Chandler really changed the trajectory of the game right after that. It was pretty good timing.”
Day entered the game for Patrick Raby in the fifth inning, fanning two Georgia batters in his first inning of work but hitting one with a pitch. Command has been an issue for Day in the past, but he didn’t let the lone errant pitch slow him down.
“The guy I hit was a changeup and I just told myself that I was never going to do it again,” Day said. “So, I was lucky enough and I never did it again the rest of the game.”
With Day settling in and getting command of his pitches, the Commodores got some help from their defense. Martin made a diving snag of a ground ball at first base to get a key out in the seventh inning. As his outing continued, Day kept wheeling and dealing with eight strikeouts in his first four innings.
That type of defense combined with stellar run support is a pitcher’s dream come true.
“I mean the runs that we had, the lead, it definitely helps with confidence and being able to pitch comfortably,” Day said. “You get runners on base and it doesn’t really change a thing because you know with one hit, you get a double play and you’re out of the inning. It’s mostly knowing I’ve got the guys behind me and they’re going to do their job as long as I put the ball in the spot I want to.”
Georgia’s biggest threat against Day came in the ninth inning as the Bulldogs put two baserunners on thanks to a Meadows single and Tucker Maxwell walk. Day settled down again to strike out the leadoff hitter Tucker Bradley, but proceeded to give up an RBI single to Aaron Schunk to cut the Vanderbilt lead to 5-3. The Vanderbilt righty had the last laugh, however, as he struck out Mitchell Webb to finish off the game and secure the win.
A similar situation led to Georgia’s go-ahead runs last night, but this time around, the Commodores were determined to close it out and finish strong.
“That’s just Chandler,” Corbin said. “That’s just Chandler finishing the game. He’s smelling the finish line and just getting us to the end. That game’s never over. Their offense is pretty potent and pretty good, and every hitter that gets to the plate is pretty dangerous. To shut them down like he did was a great performance for him.”
The Commodores and Bulldogs will play the rubber match on Saturday afternoon in Nashville.