No. 3 Vanderbilt can’t complete comeback, falls to No. 7 Oklahoma State 4-3

The VandyBoys fell just short Saturday afternoon at Hawkins Field due to a lack of clutch hitting.


Mattigan Kelly

Grayson Moore delivers a pitch on Saturday, Feb. 19. (Hustler Multimedia/Mattigan Kelly)

Kavi Jakes, Sports Copy Editor

No. 7 Oklahoma State took down No. 3 Vanderbilt 4-3 Saturday afternoon in Game 2 of the opening weekend series. The Cowboys jumped on VandyBoys starter Nick Maldonado early and pieced together enough pitching to hold off a Vanderbilt comeback.

After going down 4-0, the VandyBoys chipped away at the Cowboy lead, scoring one run each in the fourth, seventh and ninth innings. But the comeback fell short, as Parker Noland struck out to end the game.

Miami transfer Victor Mederos and junior Roman Phansalkar tossed four innings of one-run ball apiece for the Cowboys. It wasn’t always pretty for the duo—especially for Mederos, who issued four walks—but in the end they were able to limit the VandyBoys. Sophomore Trevor Martin closed out the game in the ninth, albeit in a bumpy outing.

“I didn’t think there were a lot of surprises,” head coach Tim Corbin said of the Cowboys pitching. “I thought they were competitive with the fastball, and we weren’t as competitive offensively in getting to it.”

Maldonado’s day got off to a rough start, as the first three Oklahoma State batters reached via a Noland error, a single and a walk, loading the bases with no outs. Oklahoma State’s Nolan McLean nearly followed with a grand slam, but his long fly ball died on the center field warning track for a sacrifice fly. 

With the next batter David Mendham at the plate, Marcus Brown scored from third as teammate Jake Thompson was thrown out attempting to steal second. Maldonado then struck out Mendham, but Oklahoma State held a 2-0 lead before the VandyBoys stepped to the plate.

The Cowboys tacked on another run in the second inning to extend their lead to 3-0. After Griffin Doersching led off with a double down the left field line, Roc Riggio sent a single into right to bring him home.

Vanderbilt threatened in the bottom of the second, as Tate Kolwyck hit a single and Javier Vaz earned a walk with two outs. But Jonathan Vastine flew out to end the inning, emblematic of a day where the VandyBoys lacked clutch hitting. The team finished 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Vanderbilt had another chance for a rally in the bottom of the third. Enrique Bradfield Jr. ripped a single to right center for his first hit of the season and followed that up with his first stolen base. After a Jack Bulger walk and a Spencer Jones single, the VandyBoys had the bases loaded with no outs. 

But Dominic Keegan and Noland struck out and Carter Young grounded out, and Vanderbilt walked away with nothing. It was one display of a difficult game for the middle of the order, as Keegan, Noland and Young combined to go 2-for-14 at the plate.

The missed golden opportunity was a big ‘what if’ moment in the game and would later come back to haunt the VandyBoys.

“We built a third, we built a fourth inning, with nothing to show for it,” Corbin said. “Their leadoff situations turned into runs, ours did not.”

The fourth inning began just like the second, with a Doersching double to left field. One batter later, Caeden Trenkle laced a double down the right field line to drive Doersching home and bring the Cowboy lead to 4-0.

The fourth concluded a rough day for Maldonado. In his first look at a starting role, the junior gave up four runs in four innings, tallying a walk and three strikeouts along the way.

The VandyBoys answered in the bottom of the fourth. After Mederos issued consecutive walks to Kolwyck and Vaz, a Jonathan Vastine groundout left runners on the corners for Bradfield Jr. He sent a ball to center field for a sacrifice fly that scored Kolwyck and closed the score to 4-1.

The next scoring came in the bottom of the seventh. Jones, who worked the opposite field all day to finish 4-for-4, earned a one-out double on a ball just a few feet short of clearing the left field wall. 

After a Keegan groundout moved him to third, Jones scored as Phalsankar grossly misplayed a slow ground ball right back at him. The play, which was generously scored as a Noland single, cut the Cowboys’ lead to 4-2.

Meanwhile, the Vanderbilt relievers were busy shutting down the Cowboy bats. Nelson Berkwich, Grayson Moore and Jack Anderson combined to throw five innings of scoreless ball after Maldonado’s exit. Moore’s outing was especially impressive, as he didn’t give up a hit in three innings of work.

The VandyBoys came up excruciatingly short in the bottom of the ninth. A double steal from Bradfield Jr. and Jones gave Vanderbilt runners on second and third with one out. Keegan struck out, placing the onus on Noland. 

After a wild pitch brought Bradfield Jr. home, the VandyBoys were down 4-3, with Jones awaiting at third. But Martin was able to work back from a 3-1 count and struck out Noland looking to end the game.

The VandyBoys will be back in action Sunday at 1 p.m. CST for the rubber match against Oklahoma State.