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.

Weekend Update: VandyBoys sweep Kentucky after Espinal walk-off

Follow along for live coverage all weekend as the Vanderbilt Commodores clash with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Enrique+Bradfield+Jr+swings+at+a+pitch+against+Kentucky+on+April+30%2C+2023+at+Hawkins+Field+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FBarrie+Barto%29
Barrie B
Enrique Bradfield Jr swings at a pitch against Kentucky on April 30, 2023 at Hawkins Field (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

The VandyBoys will go for the sweep in their three-game series against Kentucky on Sunday. Follow along live here with our Weekend Update all series!

Sunday, April 30: Vanderbilt 3, Kentucky 2

Alan Espinal walks off Kentucky (Vanderbilt Athletics).
Alan Espinal walks off Kentucky (Vanderbilt Athletics). (Vanderbilt Athletics)

FINAL

Vanderbilt (32-11, 16-5) walked off Kentucky (30-13, 11-10) on an Alan Espinal liner to left field to take all three games of the weekend series. Jack Anderson picked up the win for the Commodores who never led until the bottom of the ninth inning.

WHAT THEY SAID 

Tim Corbin

“He’s highly respected because he cares about everyone,” Corbin said of Espinal. “He celebrates every little thing that everyone does in the program…he’s in the batting cages every morning at 6:30 a.m.”

“Good response to last week,” Corbin said of his team’s response. “Just great for the kids…Today we responded when we needed to. We pitched and we played defense.”

Alan Espinal

“I told myself that I was going to end it [the game] if I got the chance,” Espinal added postgame. “I was just confident in myself.”

Bottom 9: Vanderbilt 3, Kentucky 2 

Parker Noland started the inning off with a single and Matthew Polk slashed a double to left off a fake bunt attempt to give the Commodores runners on second and third with no outs. Vastine ripped a come-backer off the pitcher to tie the game and give Vanderbilt runners at first and third with no outs.

After a pitching change, Alan Espinal smashed a ball to left field to bring Polk home and win the game for the Commodores. Vanderbilt completed the weekend sweep after the walk-off win.

Bottom 8: Kentucky 2, Vanderbilt 1

RJ Austin smoked a two-out single to the left field wall but Chris Maldonado struck out looking to leave him stranded as the VandyBoys offense continued to scuffle.

Top 7: Kentucky 2, Vanderbilt 1 

Sam Hliboki relieved Devin Futrell and ran into a bit of trouble in his first frame. Hliboki allowed a walk and a single as Kentucky found themselves with runners on the corners and one out. Grant Smith was cut down at home by Parker Noland on a fielders choice and Hliboki induced a weak bouncer back to the mound to escape the inning unschated.

Top 6: Kentucky 2, Vanderbilt 1

Kentucky started the inning with back-to-back singles from Pitre and Gilliam. Gilliam’s grounder through the right side moved Pitre around to third, prompting a visit from Vanderbilt pitching coach Scott Brown to talk to Futrell. After getting one out, Futrell allowed a single to Felker with two strikes that drove home Pitre. Futrell set down the next two batters to get out of the inning.

Bottom 4: Kentucky 1, Vanderbilt 1 

Chris Maldonado ripped a 2-0 fastball through the left side for a single to give Vanderbilt one on with out. Parker Noland popped out to left but Matthew Polk delivered with a two-out double that brought Maldonado home. Polk was caught trying to stretch the hit into a triple to end the inning.

Bottom 3: Kentucky 1, Vanderbilt 0

A hail storm passing over Hawkins Field suspended the contest for just about 10 minutes, but Enrique Bradfield Jr. restarted things with a perfect bunt single to reach first. Alan Espinal, who walked prior to the hail delay, moved to second. Diaz struck out looking and Schreck popped to right to end the inning.

Bottom 1: Kentucky 1, Vanderbilt 0 

Davis Diaz hit a stinger to right field that hung up in the wind and was nabbed by Nolan McCarthy on a diving catch in right. RJ Schreck lofted a two-out double to give Vanderbilt a man on with two out, but RJ Austin struck out to leave him stranded.

Top 1: Kentucky 1, Vanderbilt 0 

In an uncharacteristic start, Devin Futrell hit Jackson Gray on the first pitch of the game then walked Ryan Waldschimdt. Emilien Pitre hit into a fielders choice that moved Gray to third and Hunter Gilliam brought him home with a sacrifice fly to make the score 1-0 Kentucky. Futrell induced an infield pop-up that was caught by Parker Noland to end the inning.

Pregame

Vanderbilt and Kentucky will square off in a Sunday matinee as the Commodores go for the sweep. Devin Futrell (6-2, 2.50 ERA) will take the bump against Zack Lee (3-2, 3.89 ERA) for the Wildcats

Saturday, April 29: Vanderbilt 9, Kentucky 3

Chris Maldonado at the plate (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto).
Chris Maldonado at the plate (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto). (Barrie Barto)

WHAT THEY SAID

Tim Corbin

“The team feels it when we’ve got consistency,” Corbin said. “That’s really what you want to provide the team … It was beneficial to our psyche.”

“We feel good about what we have left,” Corbin said of the pitching situation for Sunday’s series finale.

RJ Austin

“[In] training this week, we really worked on how to work together as a team,” Austin said. “[Corbin] was confident in us.”

FINAL

The VandyBoys defeated Kentucky 9-3 on a very impressive offensive day to clinch a series win. They were led by RJ Austin, whose 2-for-3 performance drove in a total of four runs. Thomas Schultz (2-1) records the win.

Top 9:

Ginther stayed on and closed out the Wildcats for a two-inning scoreless outing.

Bottom 8: Vanderbilt 9, Kentucky 3

Jonathan Vastine opened the frame with a base hit off Magdiel Cotto. Bradfield Jr. then doubled after a long at-bat to put two runners in scoring position. Vastine then scored from third on a chopper groundout hit by Schreck. Bradfield Jr. then scored on a wild pitch.

Top 8:

Ryan Ginther comes in for Vanderbilt. Thomas Schultz was very good, throwing three innings of one-run baseball. Schultz is likely in line for the win. Ginther walked one hitter but retired the other three in his first inning, and will likely stay on for the ninth.

Bottom 7: Vanderbilt 7, Kentucky 3

Davis Diaz and RJ Schreck led off the inning with back-to-back singles and were both in scoring position after a Bulger groundout to the right side. RJ Austin then drove a single up the middle for his third and fourth runs batted in of the day. Strickland has subsequently been chased after 3.2 innings of work in which he allowed six hits and at least three earned runs. Southpaw Evan Byers came in to face Parker Noland, beaned him, and is now out as well. Ryder Giles takes over. Calvin Hewett hit a fly ball to the warning track that came just a few feet short of his first homer of the season.

Top 7: Vanderbilt 5, Kentucky 3

As is usual when Vanderbilt leads late, Calvin Hewett has taken over in left field. Jackson Gray hit a solo homer off Schultz to right field with one out. Pitre then doubled down the right-field line with two outs, but Owen forced a groundout to limit the damage into the seventh-inning stretch.

Bottom 6:

Matthew Polk reached on a one-out single and took second on a wild pitch on Strickland’s curveball, but was left on third. Vanderbilt has stranded just five runners on base today.

Top 5:

Hunter Owen’s start is over after four innings and 75 pitches. In the junior left-hander’s return, he allowed two earned runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Thomas Schultz is now on the mound for Vanderbilt, and he’s started with a one-two-three inning that ended with a cue shot by Gilliam that started foul but spun back fair for an easy out.

Bottom 4: Vanderbilt 5, Kentucky 2

Kentucky starter Tyler Bosma’s day is over. He went just three innings, allowing four runs (all earned) on five hits with no strikeouts. Austin Strickland came in to pitch for the Wildcats. Matthew Polk welcomed Strickland to the game with a leadoff single to the right side, followed by a base hit from Vastine up the middle. Both runners advanced on a Bradfield Jr. sacrifice bunt that the junior almost beat out for a hit. On the 1-1 pitch to Davis Diaz, Strickland spiked a fastball to allow Polk to score and put Vastine on third, where he was stranded.

Top 4:

The bottom of the Wildcats’ order generated some trouble with a Reuben Church walk followed by a Nolan McCarthy single with one out. Owen then struck out the next two hitters to strand the Kentucky baserunners and end the inning.

Bottom 3: Vanderbilt 4, Kentucky 2

With two outs and nobody on, freshmen RJ Austin and Chris Maldonado hit back-to-back homers, both their fifth and both to left field. Austin’s especially was crushed well over the left-field monster down the line.

Top 3: Vanderbilt 2, Kentucky 2

After striking out McCarthy, Owen issued his first walk of the game to Kentucky’s nine-hitter Grant Smith. Jackson Gray reached on a bunt single, and a fly ball to right moved Smith to third base with two outs. Emilien Pitre drove an 0-2 pitch into left to cut the Vanderbilt lead in half. Hunter Gilliam hit a liner that drifted over the head of Matthew Polk to tie the game.

Bottom 1: Vanderbilt 2, Kentucky 0

Enrique Bradfield Jr. led off the inning with a base hit and took just two pitches to swipe second. RJ Schreck and Jack Bulger got on to load the bases with one out, and Bradfield Jr. scored on a sacrifice fly hit by RJ Austin down the left-field line: Bradfield Jr.’s team-leading 52nd run of the year. Chris Maldonado then singled up the middle to drive in Schreck.

Top 1:

Hunter Owen is off to a smooth start, retiring the top three Kentucky hitters in order with two strikeouts.

Pregame

We’re back at it for Saturday’s game two against Kentucky. Hunter Owen (3-0, 3.33 ERA) returns to the mound for Vanderbilt after missing two starts against Kentucky’s Tyler Bosma (4-2, 4.33 ERA).

Friday, April 28: Vanderbilt 6, Kentucky 4

Enrique Bradfield Jr. eyes home plate in Vanderbilt's victory over Kentucky on April 28, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto).
Enrique Bradfield Jr. eyes home plate in Vanderbilt’s victory over Kentucky on April 28, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto). (Barrie Barto)

WHAT THEY SAID 

Tim Corbin

“[Patrick Reilly] changed the momentum of the game. If he doesn’t get that hitter, the game changes quick. He just kind of neutralized it, kept them off base for the most part. Played pretty good defense behind him, but he did a lot of the work himself.”

[Carter Holton] just couldn’t get to the strike zone. They did a good job of staying in the batter’s box. It was frustrating for him, I know it was. It was a lot of traffic. I didn’t think anything was coming easy.”

“They left some guys on base. They throw a lot at you, they’ve busted games wide open all year. You need a presence out there that can handle that situation. They just do a good job of applying pressure to the defense.”

Patrick Reilly

“That’s a very, very, very good lineup. The biggest thing was first pitch strikes and then two strike execution.”

“The fastball felt really good…felt very convicted in that all night.”

FINAL:

Reilly, who struck out ten batters through 4.1 innings of work, gave way to Nick Maldonado to close out the game in the ninth. The senior right-hander struck out the side on 11 pitches in a disgusting display of dominance to give Vanderbilt its fourteenth conference win of the season.

Bottom 8:

Even with a leadoff walk from Vastine, Vanderbilt was unable to extend their lead heading into the ninth. Bradfield Jr. grounded into a double play for the first time this season to quell any threat from the Commodore offense.

Top 7: Vanderbilt 6, Kentucky 4

Despite striking out three batters in the inning, Reilly was unable to keep the Wildcats off the board in the seventh. A leadoff walk to catcher Devin Burkes, who stole second base a few pitches later, put pressure on the right-hander. Reuben Church brought Burkes home two batters later on a line drive single to center field, cutting Vanderbilt’s lead to one. The damage was kept to one, however, as Reilly struck out two of the next three batters, ending the threat.

Bottom 6: Vanderbilt 6, Kentucky 3

A leadoff double from Polk and an infield single from Vastine put the Commodores in an excellent position to extend their lead. Kentucky turned to left-hander Jackson Nove to try to escape the jam but he struggled to find the strike zone, walking Bradfield Jr. and Schreck to push across a run before inducing a ground ball double play off the bat of Bulger to close the inning.

Bottom 5: Vanderbilt 5, Kentucky 3

Bradfield Jr. worked another walk and once again stole second. After a long at-bat from Diaz, the third basemen struck a ground ball past second base, and Bradfield Jr., as he does so often, used his world-class speed to get home.

As the crowd chanted “RJ SCHRECK,” the graduate transfer superstar crushed a homer to right field to give Vanderbilt it’s first lead of the game. Bulger struck out swinging before Austin got on base yet again, this time with a screamer between second and third base. Maldonado grounded out to third as Austin advanced to second. Noland struck out to bring an end to the Commodores’ three-run inning.

Top 4: Vanderbilt 2, Kentucky 3

After a perfect bunt and a hit-by-pitch, Gilliam went up to bat with runners on first and second and only one out. Another walk from Holton gave the Wildcats a prime opportunity with the runners loaded up. Waldchsmidt ripped a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score the runner at third before another walk loaded the bases again.

After eclipsing the 100-pitch mark, Holton’s day came to an end as Patrick Reilly took the mound for the Commodores. After a few foul balls on a full count, Burkes struck out swinging to end the top half of the inning.

Bottom 3: Vanderbilt 2, Kentucky 2

After Jonathan Vastine grounded out to third base, Bradfield Jr. got on base with a hit-by-pitch, stealing second shortly after. After Diaz walked on a wild pitch, Schreck came up to the plate with runners on the corners and one out. Schreck got hit, loading the bases for Bulger. The catcher struck a ball right past the second basemen to bring two runs in for the Commodores and tie things up. Austin struck out, and Maldonado grounded out to second to bring the third to a close.

Top 3: Vanderbilt 0, Kentucky 2

After Holton walked a batter, threw a wild pitch on a strikeout and hit another batter, Kentucky found itself in a prime position with runners on first and second with two outs. Pitre worked a walk out of the four spot to load the bases, and Burkes worked his way into a full count, fouling off a few balls before blooping a single over Austin’s head to bring in two runs. Holton hit Felker to load the bases once again, but Church popped out to end the inning.

Bottom 2:

Jack Bulger opened things up for Vanderbilt with a bloop single to shallow right field, and RJ Austin crushed a ball between third base and shortstop to set runners up on first and second for Chris Maldonado. The freshman designated hitter laid down a bunt to advance both baserunners with Parker Noland coming up to the plate. Noland popped out to shallow right as Polk stepped up, hoping to avoid stranding two runners in scoring position. Unfortunately, the sophomore got caught swinging on a slider, ending what seemed to be a promising inning for Vanderbilt.

Top 2:

After a hit to open the inning by Emilien Pitre, a sacrifice bunt from Devin Burkes sent Pitre to second. Holton hit Jase Felker to put runners on first and second with just one out. Reuben Church popped out to Matthew Polk in left field, and Nolan McCarthy struck out swinging to end the inning.

Bottom 1:

Enrique Bradfield Jr. opened things up for the Commodores with a pop-out to second base. Davis Diaz followed things up with a few productive fouls before ultimately grounding out to second, and Schreck ended the inning with a pop-out to shallow left field.

Top 1:

Jackson Gray smacked an opposite field single on Holton’s second pitch of the game to grant Kentucky an early baserunner. Hunter Gilliam followed it up with a deep fly out that RJ Schreck grabbed on the warning track. A nifty curve from Holton caught Ryan Waldschmidt looking for the second out of the inning, and Gray got picked off trying to steal second for the final out.

Pregame:

No. 5 Vanderbilt (29-11, 13-5) enters the weekend in the middle of a four game losing-streak, hoping to turn things around against No. 15 Kentucky (30-10, 11-7). Carter Holton (3.20 ERA, 4-0) will take the mound for the Commodores in a matchup against the Wildcats’ Darren Williams (3.76 ERA, 3-0). The VandyBoys will be repping their Black and Gold pinstripes in contrast with Kentucky’s blue uniforms.

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About the Contributors
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].
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].
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].
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].    
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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