The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Three up, three down: Vanderbilt drops two of three to Florida

Ziyi Liu
Vanderbilt starting pitcher Drake Fellows (66) meets with pitching coach Scott Brown (26) and catcher Jason Delay (right) during the Commodores’ 20-8 loss to Florida on April 15, 2017.

Vanderbilt (22-15, 7-8) hosted the 10th-ranked Florida Gators (24-12, 8-7) this weekend in what proved to be an exciting weekend series right in the heart of SEC play. The Vanderbilt bullpen struggled on Thursday night, but Kyle Wright bounced back Friday, not needing them at all in a complete-game shutout. The Gators dominated Vandy’s pitching on Saturday, however, to take the rubber game of the series and jump ahead of the Commodores in conference play.

Three up:

Kyle Wright looks dominant in three-hit shutout

Maybe moving from the No. 1 starter to the No. 2 was all the motivation Wright needed. He was flawless on Friday night, hurling all nine innings for the Commodores, allowing just three hits and striking out a career-high 13 batters in a win. Wright had been struggling earlier in the year, sporting an ERA that sat at a whopping 5.59 at one point. But he has really settled down as of late, and this is his second start in a row with no earned runs allowed. In front of 37 scouts from Major League teams, Wright proved why he remains a projected top-10 pick in this upcoming draft, showing excellent command of all four pitches in his arsenal and constantly keeping the Florida hitters off-balanced.

Will Toffey continues to rake

After a lackluster performance last season, Toffey has been red-hot nearly all season long for the Commodores. That didn’t change this past weekend, as Toffey wasted no time blasting a shot off the top of the left-field wall to open Thursday night’s game. He would finish with five total hits in the series, and if not for a couple great defensive plays by the Gators, that number easily could have been seven. Even when Toffey hasn’t gotten hits, he finds a way to get on base. The junior third baseman is hitting .318 on the year but has gotten on base at a .467 clip, ranking first on the team.

Small ball

It’s no secret that head coach Tim Corbin loves to mix it up a bit to manufacture runs. How many other coaches have their top-five prospect square to bunt in his first two at-bats?

The small ball was on full display on Thursday night, as the Commodores scored their first two runs of the game off bunts from Alonzo Jones and Connor Kaiser. They followed it up in the fourth inning when Jones reached on an error and groundouts from Kaiser and Ro Coleman scored the runs. Friday was much of the same, with Kaiser dropping down a suicide squeeze with two strikes to score what would prove to be the deciding run. Nearly every starter squared to bunt at some point against the Gators, with most of them getting them down. The hitting has been strong, but if it begins to struggle, Corbin has a lethal weapon in his back pocket.

Three Down:

Fellows struggles again

SEC hitters just refuse to be kind to Drake Fellows. Saturday marked the second straight start in which the true freshman failed to get through three innings of action, after getting roughed up for two home runs in the top of the first. In front of a sold out crowd at Hawkins Field and thousands more watching on ESPN2, the nerves seemed to get to Fellows early.

He found himself leaving a large number of his pitches in the dirt and left a couple more right over the heart of the plate. Corbin might decide to move Fellows to the mid-week role starting next week, as his ERA has skyrocketed from 1.00 to 3.67 since the start of conference play.

What’s going on with the bullpen?

Now more than halfway through the year, the Commodores don’t have a reliable formula out of the bullpen. Just a week after tossing seven scoreless innings of relief, Matt Ruppenthal walked the first two batters he faced in Thursday’s game. Reed Hayes came in to close the ninth and was tagged for five runs to blow the save opportunity.

Saturday was no better. Vanderbilt trotted out six pitchers after Fellows exited the game in the top of the third inning. Those pitchers gave up 15 runs in the next seven innings, highlighted by an eight-run third inning in which Collin Snider allowed five runs without even recording an out. His ERA jumped a full two points in the process. In fact, the game that Vanderbilt won this weekend proved to be the only one in which it didn’t use the bullpen at all.

History not on the Commodores’ side

If you want to find the last time Vanderbilt gave up 20 runs in a game, go all the way back to 2002 in a loss to South Carolina. The coach then: Roy Mewbourne.

That’s right, it’s the most runs that this team has ever surrendered in a game under Corbin. The Commodores are also four losses away from equaling last year’s loss loss total, yet they’re 21 games away from the win total. If Vanderbilt takes anything away from this series, it’s that it can compete with any team in the country on any given night, but with this level of inconsistency, it’s going to need to right the ship fast.

Leave a comment
About the Contributors
Max Schneider
Max Schneider, Former Sports Editor

Max Schneider (’20) was the Sports Editor for the Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been on staff since the first semester of his freshman year, first as a staff writer and shortly thereafter as the Deputy Sports Editor. Max also serves as the host of VU Sports Wired on Vanderbilt Television and The Hustler Sports 30 on VandyRadio.

He majored in communications studies and political science in the College of Arts and Science. Max has had bylines on and has previously worked for The Nashville Predators, The Players’ Tribune and Nashville SC. He has attended several events as credentialed media, including the 2019 College Baseball World Series, the 2019 NBA Draft and the 2018 Texas Bowl.

Max is a native New Yorker and a die-hard Jets fan still holding out hope.

For tips, please reach out to: [email protected] or find him on Twitter or LinkedIn
Ziyi Liu, Author

Comments (0)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments