VandyBoys regain their momentum, beat Alabama 9-6 in series-opener

Four Commodore home runs and Enrique Bradfield Jr.’s dominance lead to an impeccable home victory for Vanderbilt over the Crimson Tide.

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Vanderbilt took game one of a three-game series with Alabama this weekend at Hawkins Field. (Twitter/@VandyBoys).

Andrew Wilf, Staff Writer

On Friday night, the Vanderbilt Commodores took the first game of the weekend series with a 9-6 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide. This victory was a morale booster as the Commodores’ three-game losing streak came to an end.

Kumar Rocker started the game in impressive fashion. Rocker’s first inning consisted of 13 pitches, 13 strikes and three strikeouts. The second inning was quick and much the same for Rocker as he registered three consecutive strikeouts and allowed zero hits. Even more impressive was that Rocker’s first ball was not thrown until his 17th pitch. 

But innings three and four were uncharacteristic. The first two innings for Rocker were near-immaculate, and after struggling for a brief period, he regained his dominance in the 5th inning. In total, he notched 110 pitches and gave up six runs while throwing 71 strikes and racking up 13 strikeouts. Rocker’s inconsistency was unexpected, but his dominance was extraordinary. 

“He [Kumar Rocker] was trying to do too much,” head coach Tim Corbin said after the game. “He gave us a good effort, it wasn’t easy but Alabama is a good hitting team.”

After the Commodores gave up three runs in the third inning, they responded. The Commodores were quickly in a position to bounce back. Troy LaNeve reached third base and Enrique Bradfield Jr. then singled to put runners on the corners. Despite trailing by two runs, Carter Young and Dominic Keegan followed Bradfield’s single with back-to-back home runs to put Vanderbilt back on top.

The fourth inning presented similar issues for the Commodores as Rocker allowed three more runs and handed Vanderbilt another hole to climb out of.

Thankfully, the Commodore bats were swinging and the fourth inning would be the last time Vanderbilt would trail. The bottom of the fourth was reminiscent of the bottom of the third. Enrique Bradfield Jr. hit his first career home-run in the black and gold, a three-run shot that put the VandyBoys back in the driver seat. After taking a 7-6 lead, Young ripped his second home run of the day and the Commodores took an 8-6 lead.

Two innings later, Bradfield Jr. would strike again. LaNeve was on second base as Bradfield Jr. faced two outs. In expected fashion, he perfectly placed a single out of the reach of the Crimson Tide’s first baseman that allowed LaNeve to score.

“Enrique jump-started us every time he got to the plate,” Corbin said. “He is attacking the game and there is so much innocence with his game and he plays with a lot of freedom. The only thing he is looking to do is beat the opponent and he keeps it very simple.”

After the fourth inning, the VandyBoys secured the lead. The Crimson Tide were unable to find themselves back on the scoreboard thanks to solid pitching from Rocker in the fifth inning and Luke Murphy and Nick Maldanado in the final four innings.

Vanderbilt faces Alabama again at Hawkins Field on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT for the second game of the series.