Right in the heart of SEC play, the Commodores can’t seem to catch a break.
After leading for almost the entire ballgame, Vanderbilt collapsed in the top of the eighth and dropped a heartbreaker to the Georgia Bulldogs by a score of 3-2.
It’s the sixth-straight loss for the Commodores, and it comes just two days after an equally-heartbreaking loss to Middle Tennessee. It’s the team’s first six-game losing streak since Tim Corbin’s first season as head coach. Even in a defeat, Vanderbilt’s ace Drake Fellows looked pristine.
Everything outside of Fellows in the eighth inning, however, was not so great. After Fellows exited the game in the eighth inning, the Commodores committed two errors, a Stephen Scott throw-down that escaped into center field as well as a Zach King soft loft to first base that drew Julian Infante off the bag. As a result, they allowed all three Georgia runs, and that ended up being all she wrote.
“The first error was he just didn’t throw through the ball,” Head coach Tim Corbin said of the brutal eighth inning. “It was just a misplay. Then we didn’t glove the ball that leaked into center field. We just didn’t take care of the ball.”
The 6’6” right-hander Fellows baffled the Georgia hitters, tossing seven innings of one-run ball, giving up six hits and fanning five. Unfortunately for the Commodores, Fellows couldn’t throw all nine innings. And he couldn’t play all nine positions.
Fellows breezed through the first, retiring the top of the Georgia lineup with just nine pitches.
The Commodores failed to put a run across in their half of the first despite three baserunners. Austin Martin led off with an infield single, and took off for second on a hit and run. Jones lined one right to the centerfielder, and it looked like Martin never really saw the ball, as centerfielder Tucker Maxwell hurled the ball to first to erase Martin. Phillip Clarke’s two-out double gave Vanderbilt a runner in scoring position, and Pat DeMarco reached on a hit by pitch, but Chase Adkins bared down and struck out Ethan Paul to keep the game scoreless.
The second inning was nearly a mirror image of the first. After another quick scoreless frame from Fellows, Vanderbilt found itself with a runner in scoring position on a Scott double to deep left-centerfield. After a passed ball sent Scott to third with just one out, Adkins walked Cooper Davis, who got his first start of his collegiate career. Adkins then picked off Davis, leaving him in a rundown between first and second. Scott broke for the plate in the meantime and the Bulldogs nailed him, thwarting another potential scoring attempt.
Vanderbilt finally broke through in the fourth inning when two walks issued to Connor Kaiser and Scott, coupled with a passed ball, gave the Commodores second and third with one away. It was the new face in the lineup, Davis, that lined a sacrifice fly to right field to score Kaiser and give the Commodores a 1-0 lead.
Georgia looked to answer in the top of the fifth with a leadoff double off the bat of Adam Sasser, but Drake Fellows was having none of it. Fellows fanned LJ Talley, Mason Meadows, and Maxwell swinging to retire the side and leave Sasser stranded at second.
Fellows finished the game with six hits conceded with one earned run and five strikeouts. Corbin was extremely pleased with his performance.
“I thought he was good,” Corbin said. “He gave us a chance to win. I thought he pitched really well. I’m proud of him. He did a nice job.”
The Commodores threatened again in the bottom of the sixth when Ethan Paul lined a double off Adkins down the right field line. That would be all for Adkins, who finished with a solid line of 5.1 innings, allowing five hits and one earned run while striking out four. Paul would advance to third on a groundball, but the Bulldogs would leave him there, keeping the deficit at just one. The home team stranded 11 baserunners in this game, continuing a trend that has plagued the Commodores in recent weeks.
Vanderbilt tacked on a run in the eighth when Austin Martin singled and stole second. After a ground ball from Alonzo Jones moved Martin over to third, Clarke came through with his third hit of the day to plate Martin.
After Vanderbilt escaped danger in the seventh, the Bulldogs finally broke through in the eighth with first and second with no out. Georgia executed a double-steal, and Scott threw the ball into centerfield, allowing Maxwell to score the team’s first run of the game. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Aaron Schunk knotted the score up at two. But the Bulldogs weren’t done there. The relief pitcher, King, airmailed a throw to first on a softly-hit ground ball hit to the right of the mound, and a walk gave Georgia a shot to take the lead. Mitchell Webb delivered, knocking one through the hole and into left for the go-ahead run.
Vanderbilt had a shot to respond in the eighth with two runners in scoring position with one out, but Walker Grisanti struck out looking and Julian Infante flew out to right field.
“Potential of a safety squeeze, and I thought he was our best viable option right there, a guy off the bench who could do it,” Corbin said of his decision to pinch-hit Grisanti for Jayson Gonzalez in the eighth inning. “Gonzo was in the game, didn’t think that that was the option. So, we just ran him out there.”
The Commodores stranded a runner in the ninth to give the Bulldogs their SEC-leading eighth conference win. Despite the losing streak, Corbin is already looking ahead to the rest of the series.
“It’s a flip of the coin sometimes with kids, but they’ve got school tomorrow, you’ve got to get right back in class and then they’ve got to arrive tomorrow with a little bit of an attitude,” Corbin said. “Sometimes, that’s what it takes. You’ve got to have that feeling inside of you that you can do certain things, and that’s where we’re going to have to get to mentally before things start moving in the direction that they need to be.”
Vanderbilt will look to bounce back tomorrow and avoid their first seven-game losing streak since 1997 when they take on Georgia for game two of the series at 6:30.