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 blows four-run lead in eighth inning, loses to Dayton 8-5

A seven-run eighth inning from the Flyers was enough to lift them over the Commodores.
Alessandra Salvini
Vanderbilt huddles before its matchup against Dayton, as photographed on Feb. 20, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Alessandra Salvini)

In their first midweek matchup of the 2024 season, the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-2) fell to the Dayton Flyers (3-1), 8-5. The Commodores held control of the game heading into the eighth inning, leading 5-1, but a seven-run outburst from the Flyers was too much to overcome for Vanderbilt. 

“It was a loss of emotion,” head coach Tim Corbin said after the game. “When you can’t control your adrenaline, things like that will happen. The game starts to turn.”

Leading the Flyers by four to begin the eighth, Corbin gave the ball to reliever Sawyer Hawks to try and close out the Flyers. The veteran reliever ran into trouble immediately, surrendering a hit and two walks to load the bases with no outs in the inning. Bad soon went to worse for Vanderbilt and Hawks, who walked two more to keep the bases loaded and force home Dayton’s second run of the game.

Corbin quickly rotated pitchers, electing to replace Hawks with freshman Ethan McElvain in an effort to get Vanderbilt out of a jam. Despite forcing an infield flyout and strikeout, McElvain was ultimately unable to get out of the two-out jam, allowing a two-RBI double to narrow Vanderbilt’s lead to 5-4. A wild pitch to the next batter saw another Flyer score from third, tying the game at five apiece. The Flyers weren’t done there, however, with Ryan MacDougall slapping an RBI single and Alejandro Cazorla hitting a two-RBI double to extend Dayton’s lead to 8-5. 

The three-run deficit would ultimately hold as the Commodores were unable to get any traction from their bats in the eighth and ninth frames. Offensively, Davis Diaz (3-for-4, 2 2B) and Calvin Hewett (1-for-3, 2 RBI) led Vanderbilt in a game where the Commodores accrued just seven hits. 

Tuesday’s tilt at Hawkins Field started as a pitcher’s duel, with both starting pitchers dominating through the game’s early innings. Vanderbilt’s JD Thompson (ND, 4.2 IP, 1 ER, 6 K’s) was given the nod after a strong inning of work against Florida Atlantic on Friday, and continued to impress with his control against the Flyers. Dayton’s Ryan Steinhauer was equally impressive through the game’s first three frames, allowing just one hit, before a poor fourth inning forced the lefty out of the game.

Neither offense was able to generate much threat in the first two innings, with Thompson striking out four of the seven batters he faced and Vanderbilt’s lineup getting on base just twice. After a seamless start, Thompson ran into his first bit of trouble in the top of the third. After walking Dayton’s Alejandro Cazorla, former Commodore Ivan Arias reached on a single into left to find the Flyers with two on and one out. Thompson was able to escape unscathed, however, after forcing David Pedanou into a double play to end the inning scoreless. 

And, finally, the Commodores were able to find their breakthrough in the bottom of the fourth inning. Following a double from Espinal and a walk from RJ Austin, Diaz ripped an RBI double into the left field gap to open the game’s scoring. Just two pitches later, Hewett laced a double of his own to bring Austin and Diaz home, with Vanderbilt quickly extending its lead to 3-0. 

The Flyers were able to respond quickly, getting on the board with a one-out solo shot by Cazorla over the left field wall. After striking out his next batter, Thompson was replaced by RHP Sam Hliboki after a solid near-five inning start. Hliboki quickly retired Dayton’s last batter of the inning to close the top of the fifth. 

The bats for either side did not wake up until the bottom of the sixth inning when Vanderbilt took advantage of two wild pitches to tack on an extra two runs to its lead. After Austin worked another walk, he was pushed to third base by Diaz, who smashed his second double of the game into left field. Despite Hewett and Matthew Polk striking out in the following at-bats, Dayton reliever Austin Brush threw one wild pitch to each batter to bring Vanderbilt’s baserunners home. Through six innings, the Commodores had extended their lead to four at 5-1.

Disaster struck soon after for the Commodores, as they squandered their lead in the top of the eighth and were unable to rebound.

Vanderbilt will look to bounce back and claim its third win of the season when it takes on Eastern Kentucky tomorrow, Feb. 21 at 4:30 p.m. CST.

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About the Contributors
Anish Mago, Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
Lana English, Staff Photographer
Lana English (‘27) is from St. Louis and is majoring in neuroscience in the College of Arts and Science. Outside of The Hustler, you can find her drinking coffee, doing New York Times word games or getting nostalgic looking at old pictures. You can reach her at [email protected].
Alessandra Salvini, Staff Photographer
Alessandra Salvini (‘27) is majoring in political science in the College of Arts and Science. Outside of The Hustler, she loves live music, sports and being outdoors. She can be reached at [email protected].
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