Vanderbilt defeats Tennessee Tech 12-5 in Tuesday night’s matchup at Hawkins Field

After falling behind early, the Commodores used strong performances at the plate to come back.

Jayson+Gonzalez+trots+home+after+hitting+a+home+run+against+Tennessee+Tech.+%28Twitter%2F%40VandyBoys%29

Jayson Gonzalez trots home after hitting a home run against Tennessee Tech. (Twitter/@VandyBoys)

Andy Carr, Staff Writer

Following their series sweep this past weekend against the Missouri Tigers, the top-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores built on their momentum, defeating the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 12-5 in a nonconference matchup Tuesday night at Hawkins Field. The Commodores started off slow but used their offensive prowess to put the Golden Eagles away.

“These games are not easy to play,” Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin said. “It’s an adjustment when our players are used to seeing pitches in the 90’s over the weekend and all of a sudden see something different on a Tuesday or Wednesday night.”  

Freshman pitcher Christian Little started off on the mound for the Commodores. He got off to a strong start, striking out the first batter he faced and then forcing a groundout. However, with two outs in the top of the first, he gave up a single to freshman infielder Brett Roberts and walked junior outfielder Jason Hinchman. Senior utility player Golston Gillespie then singled to right field, bringing Roberts home and giving the Golden Eagles the 1-0 lead. 

The Commodores came out swinging in the bottom of the first, however. First up, freshman outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. singled to left field, stole second and advanced to third on a flyout from sophomore infielder Carter Young. Then, junior utility player Dominic Keegan doubled (and advanced to third on a fielding error), bringing Bradfield Jr. home and tying the game. Keegan didn’t remain on third base for long, as he was brought home—making the score 2-1—off an RBI double from sophomore utility player Spencer Jones. Junior outfielder Isaiah Thomas then delivered a triple to right, bringing Keegan home and putting the Commodores up 3-1. It wasn’t long until Thomas was also sent home off an RBI single to right center by sophomore catcher Maxwell Romero Jr, putting Vanderbilt up 4-1.

Despite their success at the plate, the Commodores played poor defensively, and Little struggled on the mound in the top of the second. The first batter Little faced in the inning—freshman utility player Hayden Gilliland—advanced to first on a throwing error. Freshman outfielder Theo Bryant IV was then walked before senior outfielder Cody Littlejohn hit a three-run home run to right field, knotting the score at four. Little finished the inning with a strikeout, but the damage had been done.

In the bottom of the inning, the Commodores showed up at the plate once again. The Golden Eagles made a pitching change, replacing junior Brock Myers with sophomore Connor Adams, but that didn’t do much to stop the hits from coming. The first batter up—senior infielder Jayson Gonzalez—doubled down the right field line before Young homered to left field, sending Gonzalez home and putting the Commodores up 6-4. 

Little showed improvement in the top of the third. Despite giving up a double, he allowed no runs and notched a strikeout. 

It was in the bottom of the third that the Commodores first showed weakness at the plate, as they had no offensive production.

The top of the fourth went similarly for Little: he notched a strikeout and allowed a double, but he kept the Golden Eagles from scoring any runs.  

In the bottom of the inning, Gonzalez and Bradfield Jr. each got on base—Gonzalez after a walk and Bradfield Jr off of an infield single. This prompted the Golden Eagles to make a pitching change, replacing Adams with senior Jacob Parham. With two outs, Keegan stepped up to the plate and hit a three-run home run to left field, putting the Commodores in front 9-4.

To start the fifth, the Commodores made a pitching change, replacing Little with freshmen Patrick Reilly. Little finished the game with four strikeouts, and he allowed three runs, one unearned. Reilly got his first strikeout and the Commodores got off the field with relative ease.

“There were certain things he could do better—it’s incremental, but I think for the last couple of innings there was more rhythm to his pitches and there were more strikes,” Corbin said when asked about Little.

The Golden Eagles followed suit in the bottom of the inning, also making a pitching change and replacing Parham with senior Mark Leonard. Leonard walked Jones—his first batter—who then stole second and advanced to third off a wild pitch but got off the field without allowing any runs.

Reilly notched his second strikeout of the game in the top of the sixth, allowing just one hit, and the Commodores once again quickly got off the field.

In the bottom of the inning, Bradfield Jr. used his speed to get to third base after a line drive flew over the second baseman’s head and into right center. Young then hit a sacrifice fly into left field, allowing Bradfield Jr. to score and making the score 10-4. Keegan then hit an infield single before Noland was walked. With runners on first second, Tennessee Tech made a pitching change, replacing Leonard with junior Daniel Holley. Holley got off to a rocky start, as he hit the first two pitchers he faced: Jones and Thomas. Keegan scored after Thomas was hit, as the bases were loaded. Keegan crossing home plate put Vanderbilt up 11-4 after six.

Freshman Miles Garrett started off on the mound for the Commodores to start the seventh. He replaced Reilly, who finished with two strikeouts and no earned runs allowed. Garrett struggled at first, hitting his first two batters and allowing an RBI ground-rule double from Gillespie, which made the score 11-5. However, he was able to stop any momentum for the Golden Eagles, as he notched a strikeout and made it out of the top of the inning.

To start the bottom of the seventh, leadoff hitter Gonzalez hit a homerun to left center for the Commodores, putting them up 12-5. Vanderbilt notched a few hits but did not score any more runs.

Garrett was pulled in the top of the eight, after striking out a batter and allowing one earned run. He was replaced by junior Ethan Smith, who notched two strikeouts and got the Commodores quickly off the field.

In the bottom of the inning, the Golden Eagles replaced Holley with senior Grant Phillips, who struck out two batters and gave his team one last shot, down seven, in the top of the ninth.

Senior Hugh Fisher stepped up to the mound for the Commodores in the ninth. He replaced Smith, who finished with two strikeouts and allowed no earned runs. Fisher didn’t record any strikeouts, but he kept the Golden Eagles off the board and secured the victory for the Commodores. 

The Commodores’ win improves their record to a dominant 20-3 on the year. Next up, they’ll travel to Baton Rouge for a three-game series against conference foe the LSU Tigers starting this Thursday at 6 p.m. CT.