VandyBoys dazzle in first game action since College World Series title

Keegan, veteran pitching headline 12-7 win over Oklahoma State in fall exhibition


Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Max Schneider, Sports Editor

It’s been four whole months since the Vanderbilt Commodores hoisted the trophy after winning the College World Series, but on Saturday, the VandyBoys showed no signs of rust.

In a fall scrimmage in Kansas City against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Vanderbilt dominated, winning 12-7 in 16 innings and pitching a shutout for the first 10. The Commodores leaned on standout pitching and some of their younger bats, including sophomores Matt Hogan (2-6) and Dominic Keegan (4-8) as well as freshman first baseman Spencer Jones (3-8).

Vanderbilt opened the game in familiar fashion, with now-sophomore right-hander Kumar Rocker on the mound. Rocker didn’t have his usual velocity (which is normal for the fall) instead sitting around 90-91 mph, but he showed command of his fastball and slider while experimenting more with his changeup. He pitched two shutout innings allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out three.

Jake Eder relieved Rocker and hurled a pair of scoreless innings, striking out four, and Chance Huff followed suit with two scoreless frames of his own. Huff would pick up the win.

After putting up zeroes in the first five innings, Vanderbilt’s offense broke through in the sixth. Sophomore outfielder Matt Hogan drove a fastball the other way, sending it over the wall in left for a three-run homer to give Vanderbilt a 3-0 lead.

After redshirt freshman right-hander Luke Murphy stranded the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, Dominic Keegan unloaded, rocketing a fastball over the wall in center for another three-run homer to double the Vanderbilt lead. Keegan would finish the day with four hits out of the cleanup spot, finishing just a double short of the cycle in an impressive showing.

Tyler Brown’s 1-2-3 eighth inning brought the Commodores back up to the plate, where they added a trio of runs for the third consecutive inning. This time, the long ball came off the bat of junior Jayson Gonzalez, who smashed a solo shot the opposite way to right for one of his two hits on the day.

Freshman Parker Noland provided a couple more runs on a two-RBI single to extend the lead to 9-0. The Knoxville native would add three more RBIs in the later innings on a two-run groundout and a sacrifice fly to push his total to five.

The second half of the ball game saw the highly anticipated freshman Jack Leiter take the mound for the Commodores. The right-hander out of Summit, New Jersey showed why he’s the top-ranked freshman pitcher in the nation, hurling two shutout innings and striking out four.

The Cowboys put some runs on the board, notching seven runs, including a two-run triple to left-center off the bat of Huey Morrill.

Of course, Saturday’s showing was just a scrimmage, but the VandyBoys reminded the college baseball world that they’re back with some upstart new talent and some powerful returning arms. Vanderbilt’s pitchers didn’t light up the radar guns, but they showed command and located around the strike zone throughout the day, finishing with a 2.25 ERA and striking out 19 batters.

The Commodore hitters were outstanding, notching 19 hits in 63 at-bats for a .302 batting average and working 15 walks in the process for a .430 on-base percentage.

Vanderbilt will play its second and final exhibition game Nov. 10 at Hawkins Field against the Michigan Wolverines in a rematch of the College World Series final.