NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt scored eight runs in the first three innings and collected a season-high 16 hits in an 8-6 victory over Kentucky to clinch a weekend series with the Wildcats.
Vanderbilt is now 38-16, 15-14 in SEC action, while Kentucky is 24-29, 7-22 in SEC play. The victory clinches at least a .500 record in conference play, while the 15 SEC wins are a school record.
Ryan Mullins (7-2) earned the win as he went seven innings giving up five runs (two earned) while striking out seven and walking two. Ryan Rote, who relieved Jeff Sues with two on and one out in the ninth, struck out both batters he faced for his 11th save of the season.
Centerfielder Antoan Richardson tied his career-high with three hits and three RBI, while recording eight putouts for the second time in his last three games. He also added to his SEC-leading stolen base total with two more to bring his season total to 30.
“Confidence,” VU Head Coach Tim Corbin said of Richardson’s recent success at the plate. “He lost his confidence for a while and now he has regained it. He feels better about his game.”
For the second consecutive day, the Commodores opened the scoring in the first inning. Richardson reached on a fielder’s choice when Ryan Klosterman was out at second after reaching on a single. Richardson moved to second on a Warner Jones single to left field. Vanderbilt called for a double steal and Justin Scutchfield’s throw to second sailed over the second baseman’s head and into centerfield scoring Richardson and moving Jones to third. Mike Baxter collected his 35th RBI of the season when Jones scored on his single to right field.
Kentucky took a 3-2 lead in the top of the second inning. Joe Naill drew a walk and moved to second when Billy Grace singled to left center field. John Shelby reached on an error when Tony Mansolino overthrew first base scoring Naill and moving Grace to third. JB Schmidt then singled to right field scoring Grace and moving Shelby to second. Shelby scored when Caleb Stewart doubled down the left field line.
The Commodores answered with three runs of their own in the second inning. Mansolino started the inning with a single to left field. He moved to second on a Worth Scott single to right field. Both advanced on Jonathan Douillard’s sacrifice bunt. Klosterman then singled up the middle scoring Mansolino and moving Scott to third. Klosterman stole second and Richardson singled to right field scoring Scott and Klosterman. Jones reached base after being hit by a pitch before UK replaced starting pitcher Seth Stanley with Aaron Tennyson.
VU added three more runs in the third inning. Aaron Garza led off the third inning with a single off the left field wall. Garza moved to second when Mansolino singled down the middle. Scott hit a single by the second baseman who fell while trying to play a bunt scoring Garza who was running on the pitch. Mansolino advanced to third. Scott moved to second on a wild pitch by Tennyson. Garza and Mansolino scored when Douillard hit a shot to right field moving Scott to third. Richardson then laid a bunt down the first base line scoring Scott.
With one away in the fourth inning, Justin Scutchfield was hit by a pitch and scored when John Shelby hit is first of two home runs on the day to narrow the VU lead to three, 8-5.
The other Shelby home run was a solo shot to left field in the ninth inning with one away off Sues. After Schmidt and Caleb Stewart both reached base on singles, Rote came in for the Commodores and struck out Michael Breyman and Jake Kungl to earn his 11th save of the season which is second on the Vanderbilt career all-time list.
“I liked what (Ryan) Rote did there at the end,” Corbin said. “He came in and was very aggressive. (Michael) Breyman is a good hitter who has hit balls a long way, so to get him out was very big. And to finish the game the way he did was good for us.”
All nine Vanderbilt starters collected at least one hit. In addition to Richardson’s three-hit performance, Baxter, Garza, Mansolino and Scott each had two hits. All 16 hits were singles. The Commodores totaled six stolen bases in the contest, including two by Klosterman and Richardson and one by Jones and Baxter.
The final game of the series is tomorrow at 1 pm CT with sophomore right-hander Matt Buschmann on the mound for the Commodores.
Score by Innings R H E
Kentucky............ 030 200 001 - 6 10 2
Vanderbilt.......... 233 000 00X - 8 16 1