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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

Checking in with the VandyBoys: Takeaways from the first three weeks of the season

Fifteen games into the season, the VandyBoys’ strong offense, capitalization on opponent errors and stellar freshmen pitchers have been crucial to the team’s current 12-game winning streak.
Vanderbilt Athletics
The VandyBoys huddling before their game against Wagner on Mar. 11, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

The VandyBoys have started off their 2022 season strong, winning 13 of their 15 total games thus far. The team first took on No. 7 Oklahoma State in a series they ended up losing 2-1. After that, Vanderbilt emerged victorious in their game against the Evansville Purple Aces—a 9-0 blowout win. Since then, the team’s momentum has been strong, with a shutout win in their series against the Army Black Knights followed by another victory against the Central Arkansas Bears. Most recently, the VandyBoys took on the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors in a series resulting in four victories followed by another sweep against the Wagner Seahawks this past weekend.

The team’s strong offense coupled with capitalizing on opponents’ errors have proven to be crucial for their current 12-game winning streak. Notable performances by freshmen pitchers Carter Holton, Devin Futrell and Bryce Cunningham demonstrate great potential and have contributed to the success of the team thus far. 

High-Powered Offense

Since their first game of the season, it’s been clear that the VandyBoys dominate the field with their strong offense. Junior Spencer Jones has been crucial to Vanderbilt’s offensive play. In the Commodores’ second game against Oklahoma State, Jones led the offense and finished 4-for-4 with two doubles and one run scored. He reached base in all five of his plate appearances. 

Spencer always gives you a good at-bat because he checks off on pitches, he does a good job managing the zone—I just like the way he plays,” head coach Tim Corbin remarked after that game. 

Alongside Jones, senior Dominic Keegan headed the offense in the third game of the series against the Cowboys as they ripped back-to-back two-out doubles in the home half of the first inning. Jones and Keegan headed the attack against Evansville in the fourth game of the season, and the offense combined for eight hits and eight walks as the team faced five pitchers. In this game, Jones and Keegan worked back-to-back walks to score and help secure a 9-0 shutout win. 

Strong offensive effort also powered the Commodores through their second game in the series against Army West Point. Enrique Bradfield Jr. led the offense in the bottom of the first with a bunt single and stole second and third on consecutive pitches to score the game’s first run. Keegan followed that up in the first with a two-run shot to right center, marking the first long ball of the season for the Commodores and the 16th home run in Keegan’s career. 

In the next game against the Black Knights with a 3-0 lead, Jones registered his team-leading fifth double of the season to score both Bradfield Jr. and Jack Bulger. Jones later picked up his third RBI of the game with a single through the right side of the infield to score Bradfield Jr. Keegan went 3-for-4 and reached base in all five of his plate appearances and currently sits at 99 career hits, while Jones finished 2-for-5 with a team-high three RBIs. Strong offense was a big factor in bringing Vanderbilt the wins in every game of its series against the Wagner Seahawks. 

The VandyBoys combined for 25 runs across the doubleheader on the first day of the series, outscoring the Seahawks 25-7. The offense carried into the last game of the series with a 15-5 victory for the VandyBoys. It’s clear that Jones, Keegan and Bradfield Jr. heading the Commodores’ offense so far through this season has been fruitful for Vanderbilt. The Vandy Boys’ offense pushes hard not only to score runs but goes above and beyond to secure a comfortable lead.

Capitalizing on Opponent Errors

Vanderbilt’s strong offense also knows to capitalize on opportunities, particularly errors on the part of their opponents. 

Against Evansville, Bradfield Jr. worked a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first that was followed by his 50th career stolen base. That allowed him to advance to third and score the game’s first run on a fielder’s choice. He took advantage of two more defensive miscues on the part of the Aces to secure two more runs across in the bottom of the second and struck again in third due to another error by the Aces. Jones also scored on an error by the Aces’ second baseman, which let junior Carter Young single to score Keegan.

The VandyBoys also took advantage of errors on the part of Army West Point. In the first game of the series, a Black Knight error at third let two runs come home giving Vanderbilt the lead. In the second game, Bradfield Jr. was able to score the game’s first run due to a fielding error by the Black Knights’ third baseman. In the third and final game of the series, Bradfield Jr. was able to draw a two-out walk in the bottom of the fourth before Bulger reached base on an error by the Army shortstop—both runners were able to advance into scoring position after a double steal and ultimately scored.

Vanderbilt seized the opportunity when the Central Arkansas Bears erred in the bottom of the first, too. Freshman Davis Diaz was able to reach base on a fielding error by the Bears’ shortstop and advanced to third on singles by Jones and Keegan. He ultimately took home on a throwing error by the shortstop on Keegan’s single. During the first game of Vanderbilt’s most recent series against Wagner, Bradfield Jr. reached on an infield single while a throwing error by the Wagner pitcher allowed one run to score.

Being able to recognize opportunity and capitalize on errors by opponents has been working for the Commodores. As the season continues, rival teams will have to shape up and leave no room for error, because Vanderbilt will surely seize any chance they get.

Freshmen Pitching Standouts

Vanderbilt’s success so far this season cannot be discussed without mentioning the team’s stellar pitching. In particular, freshmen pitchers Carter Holton, Devin Futrell and Bryce Cunningham have played exceptionally well and will surely continue to be assets for the Commodores. 

Holton started on the mound during the last game of the series against Oklahoma State and fanned six of the first nine batters he faced. He exited the game after four innings, amassing seven strikeouts. He was also impressive in his second collegiate start during the second game of the series against Army West Point where he managed to pick up his first career win by throwing six strong innings and striking out six while allowing only two earned runs on two hits. In the opening game of the series against Hawai’i, Holton carried a perfect-game bid into the seventh inning. Holton also displayed a fantastic outing for the Commodores in the second game of their series against Wagner where the freshman southpaw worked six scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out a career-high 13 batters. He was perfect through his first 4 1/3 innings of work before issuing a walk in the top of the fifth, and for the year he boasts a 2.74 ERA.

“I feel like I progressively get better every single week. I feel like that’s just like a comfort thing, being more comfortable on the mound, and then being away (in Hawaii). I feel like that’s helping with comfort,” Holton remarked.

Futrell made his first collegiate start on the mound against Evansville and struck out the first six batters he faced allowing only one hit over the span of four innings to earn the win. 

He picked up his second win starting on the mound against Central Arkansas and then his third in the last game of the series against Hawai’i, where he covered one scoreless frame, yielding only two hits while striking out one.

Cunningham has been excellent in relief this season, and against Evansville, he preserved the shutout on the mound by striking out three in two innings. He also worked two frames during the game against Central Arkansas and provided relief. Cunningham worked a hitless frame, striking out one batter in the seventh, during the second game of the series against Wagner. 

These freshmen pitchers show great potential for the Commodores, and their skills are certainly benefiting the team so far this season and will continue to as they gain more experience being on the team.

Vanderbilt will be back in action Tuesday night when they host Michigan at Hawkins Field at 6 p.m. CDT.

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About the Contributor
Khushi Jani, Staff Writer
Khushi Jani ('24) is a student in the College of Arts and Science planning to major in economics and political science and minor in data science. She is a staff writer for the Sports section. In her free time, she enjoys doing the daily Wordle and sudokus as well as dancing and hanging out with friends.
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