The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

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.

No. 4 Vanderbilt defeats Missouri, bats explode in 15-2 victory

In their first conference game of the season, the Commodore bats tallied 15 runs on 13 hits in a dominant victory over Missouri.
Vanderbilt Athletics
The VandyBoys celebrate during their 15-2 win over Missouri on Mar. 18, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Facing their first SEC opponent of the season, the VandyBoys (15-2) took down Missouri (12-3)    15-2, improving to 23-4 all-time against the Tigers. An offensive onslaught led by Carter Young, Gavin Casas and Enrique Bradfield Jr. got Vanderbilt on the board early and often, allowing them to extend their winning streak to 14, the program’s longest since 2013.

“That was a pretty clean game for the most part in terms of the offensive approach, certainly Chris’s approach and presence on the mound, and the defense played behind him,” head coach Tim Corbin said after the game. “When you play like that you give yourself a shot.”

Commodore starting pitcher Chris McElvain (W, 3-0) got off to a fast start, striking out the side in the first. His elite fastball control rendered the Missouri offense unable to create solid contact, if any contact at all. 

“He’s got a quick delivery. He’s got a quick arm obviously and [the fastball] spins well,” Corbin said. “He commands it well, he directs it to the glove.”

He retired the first 11 batters of the game, though not without help from his defense. With one out in the third, third baseman Davis Diaz charged a slow ground ball and fired a bullet to first to keep Mizzou center fielder Ty Wilmsmeyer off the bases. Then, with one out in the fourth, second baseman Tate Kolwyck made an acrobatic catch on a line drive that seemed destined for the right-center field gap.

One batter later, however, the Tigers got on the board when redshirt junior Luke Mann sent a fastball over the right field fence. Two innings later, Missouri shortstop Josh Day went yard to the same part of the ballpark. The home runs marked the first McElvain has allowed an opponent to clear the fence this season. 

The righty exited the game not long after, giving way to freshman Bryce Cunningham. His six innings of work saw him surrender just two hits and two walks and strikeout eight en route to his third win of the season.

“It’s just seeing what’s working, seeing what you can compete with,” McElvain said. “At the end of the day, it was just about competing against those hitters.”

Meanwhile, the Vanderbilt bats wasted little time getting to work against Missouri starter Spencer Miles (L, 2-1). On the first pitch he saw, leadoff man Enrique Bradfield Jr. hit a long home run over the center field fence. It was Bradfield Jr.’s second long ball in as many games and illustrated a vast improvement in his power since last season, when he hit just one. 

“I was just looking to be aggressive to start the game and set a good tone,” Bradfield Jr. said. “I was trying to find a pitch that was in my hitting attack zone and just drive it through the middle of the field.”

The VandyBoys weren’t done there, however, as a two-out single from Casas brought home right fielder Spencer Jones. Two batters later, Kolwyck, the hero of Tuesday night’s thriller, crushed a double off the center field fence, extending his hitting streak to nine games and scoring Casas and Jack Bulger. 

“He’s just steady,” Corbin said of the senior. “That kid is worth his weight in gold. The way he shows up to the ballpark on Monday through Monday, it’s incredible.”

It was exactly the kind of start fans have come to expect from the Commodores, who entered the game with the ninth-highest team batting average in the nation.

In the third, the Commodores added three more runs on three hits and a walk. Jones got things started with a single to right, moved to third on a single from catcher Dominic Keegan and scored on a fielder’s choice from Casas. Javier Vaz brought Keegan home two batters later, and a double down the right field line from Young scored Casas to bring Vanderbilt’s total up to seven.

The Tigers turned to senior reliever Trae Robertson in the fourth but he didn’t fare much better, walking and hitting the first two batters he faced before surrendering an RBI single to Keegan and a sacrifice fly to Casas. 

The following inning, a leadoff double from Young followed by a triple from Bradfield Jr. spelled trouble once again for the Tigers. Robertson was able to limit the damage, however, enabling Bradfield Jr. to score on a sacrifice fly from Diaz but keeping the bases otherwise clear. 

In the seventh, Young and Bradfield Jr. combined once again, singling off Missouri senior Drew Garrett and scoring to add to the Vanderbilt run total. Diaz also scored in the inning, walking and coming home on a sacrifice fly from Casas.

“[Our hitting approach] was professional,” Corbin said. “We never played underneath the ball tonight, we played through the ball, and I think that was the difference.”

The late Commodore insurance runs were welcomed, but not needed, as Cunningham and sophomore left-hander Brett Hansen completely shut down the Tiger lineup down the stretch. Cunningham allowed one hit and struck out four in his two innings of work, while Hansen tallied one walk and one strike out in a scoreless ninth. 

The Commodores will look to extend their winning streak Saturday at 2 p.m. CDT in the second game of their three-game series against Missouri.

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About the Contributor
Luke Rollfinke
Luke Rollfinke, Senior Staff Writer
Luke Rollfinke ('25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science planning to major in mathematics with a minor in communications. Luke loves all things sports, so when he's not writing for The Hustler, he's probably either playing for a club or intramural Vanderbilt sports team. You can reach him at [email protected].
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