The good and the bad of Vanderbilt’s win over Evansville

Vanderbilt wins 6-0 in a comfortable game at home vs. Evansville, leaves a little more to be desired.

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Mattigan Kelly

Jack Leiter (22) winds up to pitch in Tuesday's win over Evansville.

Jesse Goldman, Staff Writer

It may seem out of place to look at negatives from Vanderbilt’s win over Evansville on Tuesday, but when a team has as lofty goals as the Commodores do, there is slim margin for error.

Vanderbilt won last year’s National Championship. Evansville was 0-7 coming into  Tuesday’s game. The Commodores’ lineup was filled with typical starters, but the game was too close for the expectations of this team. The defending National Champions won 6-0 with another strong performance from freshman star Jack Leiter, but for a program with such high aspirations, it is important to acknowledge the concerns this team has raised so far this season. It is time to look at some of the good and the bad from Tuesday’s performance, as well as the resulting benefits and ramifications. 

THE GOOD

Jack Leiter came into the Vanderbilt baseball program with ridiculously high expectations. Despite the immense pressure already on his shoulders, Leiter has all but lived up to the hype. Leiter has given up one hit in ten innings of work, is hitting the mid-90s with his fastball consistently and continues to use his sweeping curveball to not only finish off hitters but to also get himself out of tough counts. After putting himself in trouble in the 5th inning, Leiter received a visit on the mound from his pitching coach and was then able to get out of the jam unscathed. Although the competition the freshman has faced is not on par with SEC opponents, the team and fans should be incredibly encouraged by what Leiter has produced. 

Carter Young is starting for the defending national champions as a freshman at shortstop, hitting .364 and leading the team with 8 RBIs; you get the point. His performance has been stellar thus far, with a strong 3-4 day at the plate and two hard hit balls on Tuesday. However, the most telling moment of his effect on the field was a play he made running the bases. Young was on first base when a routine double play ball was hit to Evansville’s second baseman. Nonetheless, Young got a good secondary lead, a great jump and hustled the entire way down the baseline. The second baseman bobbled the ball once, and Young beat the flip, saving an out and keeping the inning alive. This team lacks the offensive firepower it had last season, so it is plays and mindsets like this that are going to lead to more wins. 

The Bullpen was very good in relief of Leiter on Tuesday as well. Michael Doolin hit two batters to load the bases in the 6th inning, but he struck out the next Ace that he faced to end the inning. Chris McElvain has had a tough start to the season, giving up four earned runs and three walks in less than four innings of work coming into Tuesday’s action, but he went two strong innings and surrendered no runs. 

Austin Martin finally logged his first home run of the season, traveling about 380 feet to left-center field. He seems to be getting his power stroke back, which is what arguably carried the Commodores through a stretch of their championship run in Omaha when J.J. Bleday’s bat went silent. He also hit a line drive into the right-center gap that was tracked down and caught but was still hit hard. 

THE BAD

The VandyBoys left way too many runners on base. Two base runners were stranded in the first, second and fourth innings, and the eighth ended with an easy double play. Runners left on base is a part of baseball and will show up in every boxscore, but, against a team that has yet to log a win, it is not unreasonable that Vanderbilt should capitalize on more of these opportunities. 

In terms of scoring, the offense only put one crooked number on the board today. They scored one run in four innings, and the inning in which they scored two came off a single hit, a home run off the bat of Isaiah Thomas. This offense needs to start stringing hits together and generating rallies. Pitching can only carry a team so far, and as we get later into the season, there are going to be days where the bats need to bail out the staff. 

Baserunning was subpar at best. Parker Noland ended the fourth inning by getting in a rundown between first and second base, which would have been more forgivable if there had not been a runner on third. Getting in the rundown itself was bad, but what ensued was even worse. Instead of extending the rundown to give the opportunity for the other runner to attempt to score before the tag was made, Noland just gave a few jab steps and was easily tagged out. The other baserunner never even had a chance to take off towards the plate.

The middle of the lineup was essentially unproductive today. Through the first six innings, the 4-8 hitters had zero hits. Although a few came through later in the game, they have to be more productive in earlier innings. As mentioned before, this team is going to need to string hits together to produce runs, and if only the top of the lineup is hitting, then this will prove difficult.

While this last one did not have a direct effect on the game itself, the atmosphere of one particular room in Hawkins Field was in fact affected. There was a Chick-fil-A catering bag in the press box but no actual Chick-fil-A. I cannot lie, I was very excited to enjoy a chicken sandwich during the first few innings of the game, but when I went over to pull up the velcro compartment of the thermal bag, nothing was inside. I guess it is a pretty good baseball situation here in Nashville if this is making the list.