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.

Vanderbilt falls to Central Arkansas 5-4 in home opener

The VandyBoys were unable to overcome a sluggish start as they lost their 2023 home opener on Tuesday, falling to Central Arkansas 5 to 4
Barrie Barto
Grayson Moore struck out nine batters against the University of Central Arkansas Bears on Feb. 21, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto).

After a successful weekend at the College Baseball Showdown in Texas, Vanderbilt baseball kicked off their home schedule with a loss against Central Arkansas on Tuesday. On a warm afternoon at Hawkins Field, the Commodores fell to the Bears, 5-4.

Patrick Reilly got the nod for the Commodores on Tuesday, making his 11th career start in the Black and Gold. The junior started the contest strong for Vanderbilt retiring the side in the top half of the first inning. Reilly got Drew Sturgeon swinging and caught Evan Hafley looking to notch two punch-outs in his opening frame of work.

The Vanderbilt offense — which scored 23 runs in two wins over the weekend — sputtered out of the gates as well. Enrique Bradfield Jr. and RJ Austin grounded out to second base and shortstop before RJ Schreck was hit by a pitch. A Calvin Hewett pop out near the foul netting fell into the glove of Central Arkansas second baseman Tanner Leonard to end the inning.

Reilly continued his progress into the second inning, setting down the Bears 1-2-3 and fanning Dylan Cyr on just three pitches to bring his strikeout count to three.

That frame would prove to be Reilly’s best of the day, however, as he ran into trouble in the top of third. After the Vanderbilt offense went down in order, Reilly quickly amassed the first two outs against Central Arkansas’ Seldomridge brothers. With two outs, the righty began to unravel.

Leonard singled on a dribbler to right field to extend the inning and Sturgeon advanced to first via a base on balls to give the Bears runners at first and second. Bowman delivered for Central Arkansas with a single to left field that plated both Leonard and Sturgeon and gave the Bears a 2-0 lead. Bowman was caught stealing second a few pitches later, ending the inning and Reilly’s outing after just three innings pitched. The junior finished with two earned runs, two hits and a walk allowed and four strikeouts.

The Commodores’ offense continued to falter in the middle innings, but Grayson Moore stole the show for the VandyBoys on the mound. After relieving Reilly in the top of the fourth, Moore struck out the first six batters he faced to shut down the Bears offense in the fourth and fifth innings.

In the bottom half of the fifth, the Vanderbilt offense finally woke up as Jonathan Vastine earned the Commodores their first hit of the game via a liner to right field. Jack Bulger walked to give Vanderbilt two on with one out after Davis Diaz led off the frame with a fly out to right.

TJ McKenzie hit a high-hopper to shortstop that nearly resulted in an inning-ending double play, but the throw from shortstop was wide. McKenzie reached on a fielder’s choice and Vastine scored from second to give the Commodores their first lead and narrow the score to 2-1.

Bradfield Jr. and Austin walks chased Central Arkansas starter Payton Windham from the contest, but Shreck flew out to right to leave the bases loaded and end the inning.

Central Arkansas responded in the top of the sixth thanks to some stellar individual effort from Tanner Leonard. After reaching first on a bunt single, Leonard stole both second and third and scored on a Bowman sacrifice fly to right field push the Bear lead back to two runs, 3-1. Moore worked his way out of the jam, however, striking out the next batter — his eighth of the day — to end the inning.

Hewett opened the bottom of the sixth for the Commodores facing Bears’ reliever Cole Macrae. He popped out to left field before Noland struck out swinging and Diaz struck out looking as the Commodores continued to struggle to get on base.

Moore returned to the mound for the Commodores to begin the seventh inning, walking Kolby Johnson before getting Dylan Cyr to swing over a pitch and ground out. An AJ Mendolia single dribbler up second base put runners on the corners for the Bears with just one out. After a mound visit, Moore remained on the mound before Vanderbilt missed on a prime double play opportunity and Central Arkansas sent another man home to take a 4-1 lead. After Hewett dropped a fly ball, the Bears netted another run, prompting a pitching switch for the Commodores. Thomas Schultz entered the game for Vanderbilt and ended the inning with the help of a diving Diaz to prevent another hit.

Vastine, one of only two Commodores with a hit through six innings, led off for the Commodores in the bottom of the seventh with a fly out to right field. Bulger followed with his second walk of the evening. Macrae continued to struggle with control, walking McKenzie to give the Commodores a real scoring chance with runners on first and second and only one out.

Trent Gregson came in for Macrae to try and earn a save and lead Central Arkansas to a victory. Bradfield Jr’s rocky start to the season continued as he popped out to shallow center field. With two outs, got caught swinging on a breaking ball to end the inning.

Schultz made quick work of the top of the Bear’s order, ending the top half of the eighth inning with three timely outs.

Schreck flew out to left field to open the bottom of the eighth before Hewett singled up the middle and stole second. Noland flew out to left for Vanderbilt’s second out. After a ball grazed Diaz’s elbow, he took first place, sending Vastine up to bat with runners on first and second. After fouling off a few balls, Vastine crushed a ball over the right field fence for a three-run home run, bringin the Commodores within one as the scoreboard showed 5-4. Bulger ended the inning with a groundout, but the VandyBoys had life.

Nick Maldonado took the mound for the Commodores in the top of the final inning. Maldonado struck out the first batter he faced before Cyr hammered a ball to left field for a single. He came back with another strikeout, and Kade Seldomridge grounded out to end the inning.

McKenzie would open up the biggest inning of Vanderbilt’s young season with great contact on what appeared to be a base hit before Bowman made an acrobatic play to snatch the ball out of mid-air. Bradfield Jr. followed it up with a groundout on the first pitch. With all of the pressure on, Austin stepped up and drilled a double down the left-field line to give the Commodores life. Schreck hit a ball that nearly sent Austin home, but was ruled just foul. He was unable to replicate the success as he fouled out to the catcher on the next pitch.

Vanderbilt will be back in action at Hawkins Field again at 4:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Feb. 22 against UAB.

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About the Contributors
Bryce Smith, Former Sports Editor
Bryce Smith ('23) is majoring in human and organizational development in Peabody College with a minor in business. Bryce previously wrote for SBNation before joining The Hustler. Hailing from Chicago, Bryce is a die-hard Bears and Cubs fan who is also hoping that the Bulls and Blackhawks may one day rekindle their dominance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Aiden Rutman, Senior Staff Writer
Aiden Rutman (‘25) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in communication studies. He formerly produced The Hustler’s sports podcast, Live from West End. In addition to writing and podcasting, Aiden is an avid New York sports fan, and he loves playing sports, spending time outdoors and trying new foods. You can reach him at [email protected].
Barrie Barto, Senior Staff Photographer
Barrie Barto ('25) is majoring in medicine, health & society with a minor neuroscience in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Photography Director. Outside of The Hustler, you can find Barrie cheering on the St. Louis Blues or tracking down the best gluten-free food in Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].
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