Breaking down the first leg of the Black-Gold Scrimmage

Freshman Commodores shine at the plate as Vanderbilt looks to find form as the fall season comes to a close

Vanderbilt Baseball prepares for the upcoming season on Thursday night.

Brent Szklaruk

Vanderbilt Baseball prepares for the upcoming season on Thursday night.

Jake Schwartz, Staff Writer

Fall baseball is upon us in Nashville. After facing Oklahoma State and Michigan in preseason scrimmages earlier in the fall, the Vanderbilt Commodores end this week with the Black and Gold Series, the team’s annual intrasquad scrimmage. The starting lineups for Game One of three were littered with freshman looking to make an impact for the reigning College World Series champs. The team looked solid on the mound and at the plate, but the play in the field showed that this team still has some work to do before getting ready for the college baseball season. 


Against the starting pitchers, the bats were firing. The constant practice against high-quality starting pitching of Kumar Rocker and Mason Hickman paid off in the early innings. Freshman catcher CJ Rodriguez and sophomore Dominic Keegan got to Rocker early, putting Gold up 1-0 in the bottom of the first with a double and single respectively. For Black, another catcher, Maxwell Romero Jr. made his mark by bagging a triple for an RBI in the bottom of the second. 

The theme here: hard-hitting catchers. CJ Rodriguez attributed part of his success tonight to seeing Rocker’s pitching from behind the plate, but being able to get two hits off arguably the nation’s best arm is nothing to downplay. Keegan will hopefully get his chance to shine this season after traveling with the team to Omaha, but not getting much time. He looks to stand out as a leader in the absence of many returning players this season and this game provided a positive outlook on that narrative. 


The Commodores left a little to be desired in the field on Thursday night. There were multiple errors throughout the game in both the infield and outfield, something the Commodores need to work on cutting out. Hard grounders were being stopped but not scooped, which can possibly be attributed to the new turf to which the players are still acclimating. Outfielders made a couple poor judgment plays leading to extra-base hits and RBI’s. One instance that stuck out from the outfield was when freshman right-fielder Tyler McKenzie hit his cut-off man at second base, and instead of trying to gun the runner headed for home the cut-off man sent the ball to third letting a run score and not getting the out. 

One positive takeaway from the field was the solid performance behind the plate, with CJ Rodriguez throwing out Harrison Ray, the team’s most prolific base stealer, at second on a steal attempt. The strong catching corps behind the plate, with Ty Duvall leading the way, is something to look forward to as the season progresses. 


We know what the starters for Game One are all about. Kumar Rocker and Mason are the two studs in the rotation. However, both of their days got off to a rocky start, with both players giving up multiple runs in their run of three innings. Although they both gave up runs, Rocker was still showcasing his hard fastball and dirty slider and Hickman was placing the ball where he wanted it and mixing up his pitch variety fairly evenly. Velocities are noticeably down for the fall, but that’s certainly expected. 

The freshmen bullpen was the highlight of this game, however. For Black, Sam Hliboki took the mound and threw three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and an overall impressive outing. For Gold, Michael Doolin and Chance Huff came in in relief. Doolin pitched three scoreless adding three strikeouts of his own. The relievers in this game set the tempo for the late game push and quieted the bats almost completely. With the spectacular incoming freshman class of pitchers, Vanderbilt looks to have a strong rotation and bullpen heading into the season, something that will hopefully carry them back to Omaha.