No. 5 Vanderbilt defeats Evansville 9-0 in weather-shortened blowout

The VandyBoys rode six combined scoreless innings from freshmen Devin Futrell and Bryce Cunningham en route to their second win of 2022.

Outfielder+Spencer+Jones+crosses+home+plate+in+Vanderbilts+win+over+Evansville+on+Feb.+23%2C+2022.

Vanderbilt Athletics

Spencer Jones crosses home plate in Vanderbilt’s win over Evansville on Feb. 23, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics)

Luke Rollfinke, Staff Writer

On a cold and rainy February afternoon, the No. 5 VandyBoys (2-2) took down the Evansville Purple Aces (0-4) by a score of 9-0. It was a dominant showing from Vanderbilt, headlined by a strong start from freshman Devin Futrell (W, 1-0) and a three RBI day from junior outfielder T.J. McKenzie. The game was called in the bottom of the sixth inning due to inclement weather. 

The Commodores scored in each of the first five innings, opening the scoring in the bottom of the first when Dominic Keegan drove home Enrique Bradfield Jr., who reached on a leadoff walk, with a fielder’s choice. Despite struggling to find control, Evansville starting pitcher Tyler Denu (L, 0-1) was able to limit the first inning damage to just one run. 

Denu couldn’t hold the VandyBoys down for long, however, allowing two more runners to cross the plate in the second. The inning was kickstarted by an infield single from Parker Noland, who advanced to third on a bloop single to right field from freshman Davis Diaz. Noland was brought home one batter later when Denu committed the first of three Evansville errors on the day, throwing an attempted sacrifice bunt by T.J. McKenzie out of play. On the very next pitch, Diaz scored on a sacrifice fly from Bradfield Jr.

Evansville turned to junior right-hander Nate Kujawski in the third, but much like Denu, struggles with control plagued his first inning of work. After two walks to kick off the inning, a muffed ground ball to second base by Parker Noland and a line drive single from Carter Young saw Kujawski out of the game after just a third of an inning of work. Senior right hander Eric Roberts was able to minimize the harm despite issuing two walks of his own, allowing Noland to score but stranding the bases loaded. 

The VandyBoys added another run in the 4th off of a double from Spencer Jones and an RBI single from Tate Kolwyck. The double was Jones’ 4th in as many games to start the season.

In the fifth, T.J. McKenzie kept the offensive momentum going by cranking his first-career home run—which was also his first career hit—just inside the right field foul pole. 

“I’m glad he got an opportunity to play and he made good use of it,” head coach Tim Corbin said after the game. “You can tell how strong T.J. is and just being able to use his hands and get that ball out down the right field line.”

Meanwhile, Commodores’ starting pitcher Devin Futrell was locked in early, striking out the side in the first and second innings. In what was his first career start, Futrell consistently found ways to get ahead in the count with his fastball before flashing his impressive breaking balls and dominant changeup. His four-pitch mix left the Purple Aces unable to do much of anything on offense.

“For a kid who’s from South Florida, pitching in these conditions and just attacking a strike zone and doing that pitch after pitch was just a really good job,” Corbin said. “I just think from his vantage point, he’s just being aggressive to the mit with a couple of pitches and that was the difference.”

Futrell finished the day with four innings of work on 53 pitches. He recorded eight strikeouts, while allowing no walks and just one hit, a single to lead off the third, in what was a dream start to his Vanderbilt career.

“It’s a dream come true. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always dreamt to play at Vanderbilt and it was a true honor to get my first start and get things going at Vanderbilt,” Futrell said. “I was pretty dialed in from the beginning of the game. I felt like all my pitches were really dominant today and it showed.”

Freshman Bryce Cunningham looked equally as sharp as Futrell in his first inning of work, striking out two of the first three batters he faced. He kept the Purples Aces off the board in the 5th and 6th innings, posting three strikeouts against two walks. His two innings pitched were enough to secure a Commodore victory before the game was called off.

“I’m happy for the players. I’m happy that they played that way. They were very clean” Corbin said. “It got us into the dugout quickly and on a day like today if you can do that, that’s probably the first step to having some type of consistency and success.”

The Commodores will be back on the diamond this Friday at 4:30 p.m. CST to kick off a three-game series against Army.