Vanderbilt bats vanish in 5-1 loss to Lipscomb


The Vanderbilt baseball team plays Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, March 14th, 2018. (Photo by Brent Szklaruk)

Max Schneider, Associate Sports Editor

First Tennessee Park has not been friendly to the Commodores.

Just a week removed from a tough loss to Belmont, Vanderbilt fell to Lipscomb 5-1 late Tuesday night. The last time these two faced off was exactly 364 days ago, in a game that saw Chandler Day come one out away from hurling a no-hitter. This time, it was the Commodore bats that were quiet, as Lipscomb worked on a no-hit bid of their own. Vanderbilt took 5.1 innings to get its first hit of the ballgame.

While hits were at a premium, baserunners were anything but. The Commodores drew nine walks and left eight men on base, squandering several scoring opportunities. Even with no hits, they chased Lipscomb starter Kyle Kemp out of the game after just four innings of work. Jake Eder, for his part, had a rough outing. Eder looked to be cruising after getting out of an early jam, but the middle innings were his enemy, and he finished with 4.1 innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs with five strikeouts.

The Commodores loaded the bases in the first on the back of three walks from Kemp but a double play ball and a strikeout kept Vanderbilt off the board. Eder faced a likely scoring opportunity in the bottom half of the inning, as a single by Cade Sorrells put gave the Bison their first base runner of the game. Zeke Dodson then roped a double that got past a diving Alonzo Jones and into the left-center field gap. Center fielder Pat Demarco hurried the ball in to Connor Kaiser, who relayed it home to nab Sorrells trying to score.

After a clean second inning from both sides, Vanderbilt nearly got on the board in the third. Julian Infante led off the inning with a shot to the left field corner that looked destined for extra bases, but Tevin Symonette patrolling left made a leaping catch at the wall to bring the fans to their feet. A hit by pitch and a walk gave the Commodores life, but J.J. Bleday popped up to second to end the inning.

Walker Grisanti led off the third with a base on balls, which was followed by two more issued to Stephen Scott and Alonzo Jones. Infante’s sacrifice fly to right plated the game’s first run. But the lead wouldn’t hold for long. Dodson struck again, bashing a homer to deep left field to knot the game at 1-1. Ethan Paul led off the fifth with a walk and a steal of second, putting the Commodores in prime position to tack on another run. However, Vanderbilt couldn’t get to reliever Alex Dorso, who stranded Paul in scoring position. Kemp had a funky stat line, giving up one run on no hits, but issuing a whopping seven walks.

In a mirror image of last week’s midweek loss to Belmont at First Tennessee Park, things started to unravel for Vanderbilt in the bottom of the fifth. After allowing a leadoff single to Madduz Houghton and a perfectly placed bunt single to Jackson Furstace, Eder was pulled in favor of Reid Schaller. Schaller plunked Blake Thomas on his first pitch, loading the bases for Sorrells, who delivered, lining a three-run triple to right center field. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Dodson gave the Bison a commanding 5-1 lead. Dodson has been Vanderbilt’s kryptonite hopes in recent memory, most notably ending Day’s no-hit bid just a year ago.

Vanderbilt finally broke into the hit column with one out in the sixth, when Stephen Scott lined a single to right field. After a walk issued to Alonzo Jones, the Commodores executed a double steal to put both runners into scoring position. However, they failed to capitalize again.

Schaller looked shaky to start the latter half of the sixth, loading the bases with two outs, but a key punch-out to Thomas kept the game within striking distance. The Commodores went down in order in the seventh at the hands of Nico Ortega, who entered the game in relief of Dorso.

Gillis replaced Schaller in the bottom half of the seventh, scattering two walks en route to a scoreless inning, but Ortega held serve in the top of the eighth, giving the Commodores one last shot at a rally. But Robbie Knox shut the door in the ninth, retiring the side in order to earn a hard fought victory.

The Commodores will look to bounce back and build on their league-best 5-1 record in SEC play as they travel to Gainesville this Friday to take on the second-ranked Florida Gators.