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.

Three up, three down: A sloppily won series in Missouri

Despite an injury, several errors and an offensive slowdown, the VandyBoys came away with a series win at Missouri.
Devin+Futrell+leaving+the+mound+after+his+start+on+Saturday%2C+April+9+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Devin Futrell leaving the mound after his start on Saturday, April 9 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Despite a much more turbulent series than the first few in the SEC, the No. 4 VandyBoys took two of three on the road against Missouri. The team’s 13-game winning streak ended with Friday’s 5-4 walk-off loss, but the visiting Commodores took care of business in Saturday’s rubber game. With mixed feelings coming out of the weekend, here were some of the high and low moments of this back-and-forth series.

Three up.

Futrell’s back-to-back shutdowns

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Devin Futrell carried the team to a 5-0 win on Saturday in his second straight start pitching into the eighth inning and not allowing a run. Futrell’s overall line read 7.1 innings, five hits, no runs, no walks and six strikeouts on 91 pitches. As I said last week, Futrell’s ability to consistently induce weak contact is what allows him these longer starts. In Saturday’s game, it was particularly important to save a bullpen taxed by the lack of Carter Holton (more on him later). The southpaw lacks the overwhelming fastball of many of his righty counterparts and any exceptional wipeout breaking ball, but he can throw strikes with all his pitches. Futrell has only walked one hitter over his last three starts and has averaged under two walks per nine innings in his college career.

Bradfield’s bases on balls

Speaking of walks, Enrique Bradfield Jr. did so four times over the weekend, bringing his season total to 34 free passes. That’s well more than anybody else on the team ― Davis Diaz is the next closest with 23. Bradfield Jr. has walked in 21% of his plate appearances this season, a marked improvement after walking around 14% of the time in his first two seasons. While the junior’s batting average is below .300 for the first time in his college career, his propensity towards drawing walks has his on-base percentage higher than ever before at .456.

The old adage that a walk is as good as a hit may be cliche, but it’s certainly true for a leadoff hitter ― especially one who can steal bases like Bradfield Jr. can. On track again for well over 40 stolen bases, it feels like every Bradfield Jr. walk is worth a double if not a triple.

Finding ways to win

To put it mildly, the Commodores were not at their best this weekend. However, Tim Corbin’s team found a way to win a road series in the SEC, and improved to 11-1 in league games with a 1.5-game lead in the difficult East division.

The RJ-squared unit helped with that. Schreck chipped in six runs scored, four hits and five driven in, while Austin had four hits and drove in three. While the bullpen nearly blew a five-run lead Thursday and did lose a one-run lead Friday, the Commodores did just enough in the clutch to win this series.

One of those top moments was the dramatic end to Thursday night’s game. With two outs and a 7-6 lead, Missouri’s Dylan Leach hit a fly ball off the left-center field wall. After trying to run into a triple, Leach was thrown out by a clutch relay from Bradfield Jr. to Jonathan Vastine to Diaz at third to end the game. Leach committed the cardinal sin of making the third out at third base, but would have been safe easily without a perfect relay.

Three down.

Rocky defense

Despite the heroics of the above play, it was not a good weekend for Vanderbilt’s normally solid defense. They committed five errors over the series, including three in the infield on Saturday. Jack Bulger had several issues defensively, leading to Alan Espinal starting behind the plate in the final game. For a team that has historically held defense in high regard, and one that has been very solid so far this year, this was certainly one of its rougher weekends.

Slowdown in parts of the lineup

While Vanderbilt still mustered a fair amount of runs, the production this weekend was not as consistent throughout the order as it has been in the past few weeks. Bulger and Matthew Polk were held to just one hit apiece, while Diaz and Parker Noland finished hitless. While it’s not typical for a team to be able to count on three or four hits from every single hitter every weekend, Vanderbilt fans will hope that this slowdown is just the product of a bad week. With the next three series coming against difficult teams in South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, the Commodores will need the full lineup to hit.

Potential Holton injury

No. 1 starter Carter Holton was scratched from Thursday’s opener due to soreness. Without him there, the bullpen was stretched more thin than usual, and both Nick Maldonado and Ryan Ginther had to pitch twice. Holton’s injury and timeline for return are currently unclear, as soreness could really mean anything. Fans will hope it was just an aching feeling and the ace will return this Friday, April 14 in the opener against South Carolina. A more serious injury, however, would be a big blow to the Commodores’ pitching staff and their chances later in the season.

The Commodores will return home on Tuesday, April 11 to face North Alabama at 6 p.m. CDT at Hawkins Field.

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About the Contributor
Frankie Sheehy, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Frankie Sheehy ('24) wrote for The Hustler Sports section and graduated from the College of Arts and Science with majors in economics and law, history and society. He was also the president of the Vanderbilt Chess Club and a superfan of the Chicago White Sox. You can reach him at [email protected].
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