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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.

Vanderbilt rallies to walk off FAU in home season opener

Jonathan Vastine walks it off for Vanderbilt in the bottom of the ninth against FAU to win season opener.
Josh Rehders
The team storms the field after Vanderbilt’s walk-off victory over FAU, as photographed on Feb. 16, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)

On Friday afternoon, the Vanderbilt Baseball faithful gathered at Hawkins Field for the opening game of the 2024 VandyBoys season for the first of a three-game series against Florida Atlantic University. Despite being up as many as six runs during the game, the FAU bats woke up in the seventh inning to cut the lead. The Commodores trailed by two runs going into the ninth inning but rallied to get a walk-off win against FAU with a final score of 12-11. 

“I think every experience that you have like that helps the next one,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “You don’t know what kind of team you have until you actually get out and play other people and get put in [these type] of situations.”

Right-hander Greysen Carter got the nod as the Friday starter for the weekend. Carter is a high-velocity right-hander who has been known to hit speeds in the triple-digits.

Perhaps the most surprising name in the starting lineup was Freshman Camden Kozeal, hailing from Omaha, Neb. who was third in the batting lineup and the designated hitter. 

The first pitch of the game was a heater at 99.8 mph by the right-hander after facing some pre-game issues from umpires’ concerns over his delivery. Carter struggled to find the strike zone at first and walked the first two batters but was helped out by Alan Espinal behind the plate, who caught a runner stealing at second base. Sophomore Chris Maldonado also helped his pitcher out by catching a foul ball. Carter battled back to strike out FAU’s five-hitter swinging. 

The Florida Atlantic freshman C.J Williams had difficulty containing the Commodores bats at the bottom of the first inning. Junior Jack Bulger started the Commodores off hot with a first pitch homer to center field. Bulger’s homerun was followed by a double by RJ Austin to the left field wall and then a line-drive single by Kozeal. Alan Espinal then singled down the right field line to advance the baserunners of Kozeal and Austin to third and home, respectively. Troy LaNeve then hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Kozeal before Maldonado grounded out to third base, to bring the first inning to a close. 

The Commodores made quick work of the Owls in the top of the second inning, where Carter struck out a batter, Austin made a catch on the warning track in center field and Carter fielded a grounder and threw to first.

To start the bats for the Commodores in the second was Jonathan Vastine, who was walked, followed by a Bulger line drive to right field. Next, RJ Austin hit a home run to left field to bring in Vastine and Bulger. The inning ended when Espinal fouled out to the catcher after Kozeal hit a pop fly to center field that FAU secured safely. Heading into the third inning, Vanderbilt led 6-0. 

At the top of the fourth inning, the Commodores quickly found themselves in a bases-loaded no-outs situation. This situation was caused by a double to center field by FAU, followed by Carter walking two batters. After a mound visit from Corbin, Carter was retired for the afternoon, with left-hander Ryan Ginther taking his place on the mound. FAU’s Emilio Gonzalez hit a three-RBI line drive to center field that slipped past Austin and LaNeve into the gap. FAU drove in another run on a hanging curveball to put the Owls within two runs of the Commodores. Ginther struck a batter out swinging to get the second out of the inning. A slow chopper to the right side of the infield led to a collision between Vastine and Maldonado, resulting in a single for FAU; however, Maldonado recovered and threw the ball home to catch the FAU player running home. After review, the call at the plate was confirmed and the Commodores were able to get out of the top of the fourth inning. 

In between innings, FAU’s David Alvarez was carted off the field with an apparent leg injury and Carter Brady replaced him in left field. 

Looking to rebound, the Commodores took up the bats. Diaz advanced to first off a walk to start the Commodores, while Vastine followed him with a single to the right side. With runners on first and second, FAU made a pitching change with right-hander Trehey replacing Williams on the mound. Jack Bulger struck out swinging to Trehey. The runners advanced on a wild pitch, which allowed Austin to advance them once again to third and home, respectively, on a hard-hit infield single. Austin then stole second, followed by Kozeal getting the second out for the commodores after hitting a pop-up to second base. 

The top of the fifth inning saw the appearance of preseason All-SEC and Golden Spikes Award watchlist nominee Carter Holton on the mound for the Commodores. Fueled by Carter throwing, striking out two batters and forcing a fly-out, FAU went three up and three down. The Commodores were unable to get anything going on offense in the fifth. 


Going into the sixth inning, the Commodores led 7-4, where Holton continued his strong appearance, striking out a batter and forcing two ground-outs to make it a three-up-three down half-inning. Vastine was the first batter of the inning who recorded a single home run to the right field, but that was all the offense for the Commodores for the inning. 

The FAU bats woke up in the top of the seventh inning, where they had a single, a double and runners that reached base through a fielder’s choice by Vastine, which resulted in an overthrow and Holton walking a batter. The Owls were able to find the hole between David Diaz and the third baseline, where they were able to hit a single and two doubles. With one out, the Owls took the lead over the Commodores 9-8. After the Owls took the lead, the Commodores were able to secure the last two outs to get out of the top of the inning. 

The Commodores answered back at the bottom of the seventh. After Espinal grounded out, Davis reached base on a single. Calvin Hewett entered to pinch-run for the Commodores, where he was successful in his steal attempt of second base. On the same play, there was an error securing the throw, which bounced into the outfield and Hewett ended up scoring to bring the score to nine-apiece. 

Junior transfer Sawyer Hawks entered for the Commodores at the top of the eighth inning and walked his first batter. Hewett remained in the game at center field while Austin moved to second base. Hawks walked the first batter, which proved lethal for the Owls as he advanced to second on a pick-off error and third on a steal. After a long at-bat, FAU’s Leroux homered to left field to put the Owls up 11-9. The Owls kept the lead through the end of the eighth inning as the Commodores left two runners on base from a pair of singles. 

In the ninth inning, sophomore JD Thompson entered the game for the Commodores. Thompson struck two batters while forcing the other to fly out to second base.

The VandyBoys rallied in the ninth inning to walk it off. Espinal struck out swinging and Hewett was able to beat the throw of the FAU third baseman to get on base. Hewett then advanced to second base on a steal. LaNeve was hit by a pitch to advance him to first, where junior Jacob Humphrey entered to pinch run for him. Maldonado struck out swinging, which led all eyes to Diaz, who singled to left field to drive in Hewett and advance the tying run in Humphrey to third base. Vastine doubled down the left-field line to score both Diaz and Humphrey to win the game for the VandyBoys. 

The Commodores will look to secure a series win against FAU tomorrow at 2 pm back at Hawkins Field. 

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About the Contributors
Grace Hall
Grace Hall, Assistant Sports Specialist
Grace Hall (‘26) is from Belfast, Maine, and is majoring in public policy studies in the College of Arts and Science. Grace is also the vice-president of the Vanderbilt Club Field Hockey Team. When not writing for The Hustler you can find her watching the Boston Red Sox or Celtics, reading or at a concert. You can reach her at [email protected].
Josh Rehders
Josh Rehders, Photography Director
Josh Rehders ('24) is from Houston and is studying computer science in the School of Engineering. When he is not shooting for The Hustler, Vanderbilt Athletics or freelancing, he enjoys finding new music and good food. He can be reached at [email protected].
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