After an explosive performance from Evan Russell on Saturday, the Tennessee offense didn’t have enough juice to keep up with Vanderbilt Sunday afternoon.
The game started with some pop for both sides as Dominic Keegan took Vols’ starter Blade Tidwell deep in the top of the first (with two outs — more on that later), and then Tennessee got back-to-back home runs from Max Ferguson and Jake Rucker.
Tidwell ran into more two-out trouble in the third inning with a single by Enrique Bradfield. Vandy’s leadoff man then stole second and third (Bradfield was trouble on the base paths for UT all afternoon as he stole second and third again in the sixth inning). Vanderbilt shortstop and two-hole hitter Carter Young blooped in a single that scored Bradfield on the next at-bat.
Vanderbilt then got two-straight infield hits from Keegan and DH Jack Bulger with the latter scoring Young. The Commodores ended the third with four hits and two runs snagging back a one-run lead. Tennessee responded with two walks and three runners on-base but couldn’t manage to get any runs across home plate.
Vandy tacked on three more runs in the fourth with a Bradfield RBI single and a Young two-run blast to deep left that extended their lead to 6-2.
Carter McElvain came on in relief of VU starter Patrick Reilly in the fourth inning and gave up a home run to the “God of the Batter’s Box,” Evan Russell. The solo shot was Russell’s 10th of the season and cut the VU lead down to three runs.
The Commodores’ offense pressed the Vols’ pitchers for two more runs in each of the next two innings. VU second baseman Parker Noland’s two-run shot first then a Bulger RBI single in the top of the 6th stretching out the score to 10-3.
Outside of an eight-run eruption Saturday, driven primarily by Evan Russell’s three-home run, six-RBI performance, Tennessee’s bats just couldn’t quite crack the Vandy pitchers.
The Commodore staff combined for 33 Ks over the weekend, and held the Vols to just 12 runs in the three games.
The top of the Vols’ lineup (Liam Spence, Ferguson, Rucker) was particularly bad managing just three hits in 32 at bats. Spence, a .378 hitter, drew six walks but also went 0-8 on the series hitting in the leadoff spot.
The Commodores hit three home runs Sunday, but their offense found other ways to plate runs, too. They drew six walks and stole seven bases (Bradfield - four, Young - two, Bulger - one) with the latter likely being the manifestation of a game-plan to take advantage of Tennessee playing backup catcher Jackson Greer. Starting catcher Connor Pavolony missed the game with a wrist injury sustained Saturday when he was hit by a pitch.
The 2-1 series victory puts Vanderbilt (28-6, 11-4) in sole possession of first place in the SEC with Tennessee (29-8, 10-5) sitting one game behind.