Eighth inning rally powers Vanderbilt past Georgia 5-2

Leiter shines, but Rodriguez and Noland lift the Commodores over Georgia.

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Vanderbilt beats Georgia 5-1 on April 9, 2021. (Twitter/@VandyBoys)

Simon Gibbs, Sports Editor

The No. 1 Vanderbilt Commodores played host to the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday, just a day after the VandyBoys suffered their worst of four losses on the year—a 14-2 defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs—and avenged their loss with a 5-2 victory.

While Thursday’s game saw the Bulldogs score early and often, Friday’s was a pitching duel; Vanderbilt sophomore Jack Leiter and Georgia’s Ryan Webb went toe-to-toe for the majority of the game. Somewhat surprisingly, Leiter cracked first—though the Commodores would have the last laugh.

Leiter had little trouble through the first three frames, striking out seven of the ten batters he faced. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, but the Commodore offense was unable to provide him with any early-game support. When Leiter did allow that first hit, it was Riley King, Georgia’s left fielder, who lined a single into shallow left field. The base hit drove in Cole Tate, who had previously reached base on a dropped third strike, and gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.

Vanderbilt managed to get two baserunners in the bottom of the fourth—albeit via a Bulldog error and an intentional walk—but Parker Noland stranded two men on base. The Commodore offense continued to struggle with men in scoring position, as Young struck out in the bottom of the fifth, stranding men on second and third. 

By the time the sixth inning rolled around, Vanderbilt’s offense was still stagnant. The Commodores had just three hits through the first five, but in the bottom of the sixth, they finally got their first run of the game. 

Down 1-0, freshman Jack Bulger connected on a moonshot of a homerun over the left field fence, clearing the student-section bleachers and tying the game at 1-1.

Following Bulger’s homerun, both Vanderbilt and Georgia pulled their starting pitchers. Leiter pitched an excellent outing, allowing just three hits, one earned run and striking out 13 through seven innings pitched. Webb was no different, as the Bulldog went six innings, allowing four hits, one earned run and also striking out 13.

Leiter was relieved by Nick Maldonaldo, who allowed a two-out double in the top of the eighth, but managed to emerge from the half inning unscathed. After Maldonaldo’s final strikeout fired up the Vanderbilt dugout, his offense responded in the bottom of the eighth, putting him in a position to notch a win.

First, Dominic Keegan logged his first base hit of the night, after which Bulger knocked a single of his own—the duo put runners on first and third for CJ Rodriguez, and the Commodore catcher broke the longstanding tie. Rodriguez hit a double, plating one and giving Vanderbilt a 2-1 lead, but the eighth-inning rally wasn’t over. After stranding two runners earlier in the game, Noland wouldn’t make the same mistake twice—instead, his golf swing, opposite-field hit climbed over the 300-plus foot wall out in left field. The three-run homer from Noland put Vanderbilt in the driver’s seat, holding a 5-1 lead entering the ninth.

In the ninth inning, Luke Murphy took the mound to close out the game. Murphy gave up a solo home run to Dominick Blaylock, but the lead stuck at 5-2. 

Vanderbilt and Georgia will tee off again at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow for the series’ rubber match.