NASHVILLE-– It was a record-setting night for Vanderbilt, as the Commodores defeated Kentucky 9-1 to tie the school record for overall (37) and SEC (14) wins in a season. It also clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament for the Commodores when coupled with a 9-7 Auburn loss at Arkansas.
Vanderbilt is now 37-16, 14-14 in SEC action, while Kentucky is 24-28, 7-21.
With Vanderbilt's win and Auburn's 9-7 loss at Arkansas, the Commodores are guaranteed a spot in the SEC Tournament. With one more win this weekend, VU clinches the seventh spot in the tournament.
Jeremy Sowers went 7-2/3 innings and gave up one run (one earned) on four hits while striking out eight and walking three. The junior left-hander left the game in the seventh inning to a standing ovation from the fans at Hawkins Field.
"I wanted to see how he (Sowers) did in the eighth (inning)," VU Head Coach Tim Corbin said. "He got a quick out; walked (Billy) Grace and then the (Caleb) Stewart at-bat took about 10 pitches and before you knew it, he was at 115 pitches. I wanted to take him out regardless because I wanted the ovation for him and I wanted to go right-on-right and end the inning."
"We played well and we got the victory," Sowers said following the game. "Our offense was great. When you score seven runs in the first three innings, it makes my job on the mound much easier. I can trust guys like Antoan (Richardson) to make plays on the base paths and I made a couple of quality pitches when I needed to."
The Commodores scored seven runs in the first three innings, including five in the third. In the first inning, Antoan Richardson reached on an error by the shortstop and stole both second and third bases. With two away, Cesar Nicolas hit a shot to left field that scored Richardson. Richardson then made a great defensive play to end the second inning when he chased down a long ball and made a diving catch on the warning track.
"We were aggressive early and it was good to get Antoan (Richardson) on base and set up some opportunities for Warner (Jones) and Cesar (Nicolas). When that happens, we are a much more effective team," Corbin added.
"Antoan made some great plays at LSU, another great one against MTSU on Wednesday and then tonight when he dove on the warning track. He has saved us so many times and you don’t know where we would be if he wasn’t out there."
Aaron Garza started the second inning with a single between shortstop and third. Tony Mansolino then followed with a standup double to left centerfield scoring Garza.
Vanderbilt scored five in the third inning when six Commodore batters had consecutive hits. Richardson reached base to start the third when he reached on an infield hit. Warner Jones then hit a shot down the middle, but Richardson was caught at second when he fell rounding the base and couldn’t get back before the 8-6-4 relay. Cesar Nicolas then hit his 13th home run of the season on the first pitch and collected his 59th RBI of the season. Mike Baxter reached on a bunt and moved to third on Garza’s double to left field. Mansolino then singled scoring Baxter and Garza slid around catcher Justin Scutchfield’s tag. Mansolino moved to third on a ground out by Worth Scott and scored when Jonathan Douillard hit a single to right field. Jones, Nicolas, Baxter and Garza all collected their hit on the first pitch.
With two away in the fourth inning, Jake Kungl got Kentucky’s first hit of the game – a standup double down the third base line. Casey Gilvin struck out to retire the side.
Richardson led off the fourth inning with a single to right field and moved to second on Jones ground out. Nicolas then hit a shot to right field scoring Richardson. UK then got a double play when Baxter hit a line drive to the second baseman and Nicolas was caught off first.
Kentucky’s John Shelby led off the fifth inning with a standup double down the third base line. Joe Naill drew a walk on four pitches placing runners on first and second. Scutchfield and Graeter struck out and Grace flew out to retire the side.
With one away, Jones hit a solo home run in the sixth to extend VU’s lead to 9-0.
Casey Gilvin led off the seventh inning with a double to left center field and Shelby reached base on a walk. Naill flew out to Matt Zeller in left field and Zeller’s throw to Mansolino at third was in time to tag Gilvin out at third for the double play. Aaron Edwards then struck out looking to retire the side.
Kentucky got on the board in the eighth inning when Billy Grace scored on a Caleb Stewart double down the third base line to extend his hitting streak to 10 consecutive games. Mike Breyman popped up to the shortstop for the second out of the inning. Jeremy Sowers was then replaced by freshman Tyler Rhoden who struck out Jake Kungle to retire the side.
Vanderbilt totaled 15 hits in the contest with lead-off hitters reaching base in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. Cesar Nicolas totaled a career-high four hits in the contest going 4-4 at the plate with one run and four RBI to extend his season total to 61. Jones collected two hits in the contest and totals 92 which is four shy of the school record for hits in a single season.
Rhoden went 1-1/3 innings for the Commodores and gave up one hit while striking out two. Craig Snipp got the loss giving up five runs on seven hits in 2-1/3 innings of play.
The Commodores and Wildcats play Game Two of the series tomorrow (Saturday) at 4 pm at Hawkins Field. Seniors Jonathan Douillard, Cesar Nicolas and Worth Scott will be honored prior to the game. Also, Jeremy Sowers baseball cards will be distributed to the first 500 fans.
Score by Innings R H E
UK.................. 000 000 010 - 1 5 1
Vanderbilt.......... 115 101 00X - 9 15 0
Win - J. Sowers (8-5). Loss - C. Snipp (2-8).
Save - None.
Start: 7 p.m. Time: 2:20 Attendance: 1562