In a low-scoring affair in which pitchers on both sides shined and the Commodore bats were mostly silenced, Vanderbilt was defeated 4-2.
“They did a nice job of holding us down,” Coach Tim Corbin said after the game. “We couldn’t get anything going with our bats and couldn’t get anything going with our legs obviously. Just a tougher night offensively. I thought we pitched well enough and defensively we played a pretty good game too.”
Sophomore Thomas Schultz made just his second career start for Vanderbilt and was solid with 4.1 innings pitched, four strikeouts and two earned runs in 75 total pitches.
On the other side, Georgia State’s starting pitcher, Paul Watson, dazzled as he pitched five full innings and only surrendered one run while striking out seven.
The Panthers struck first in the top of the second as Elian Merejo led off with a bloop-single before advancing to second on a wild pitch. A sacrifice bunt pushed Merejo to third and a Dalton Pearson sacrifice fly eventually scored him.
Facing their first deficit of the early season, the Commodores quickly responded in the bottom of the second. Tate Kolwyck drew a one-out walk and Dominic Keegan advanced him to third with a two-out single. Enrique Bradfield Jr. then stepped up to the plate and laced a single under the second baseman’s glove to score Kolwyck and tie the game at one.
Georgia State pulled ahead again in the fifth inning as the Panthers turned Dalton Pearson’s leadoff single and steal into a run thanks to a Tanner Gallman double off the wall in deep left field. Schultz walked the next batter and that was the end of his night as Corbin opted to bring in Nick Maldonado in relief.
With men on first and second and just one out, Maldonado came through in forcing a huge double play to keep the margin at just 2-1.
Maldonado ended up needing just 14 pitches to get five outs in his outing.
Bradfield Jr. had two more opportunities with two-men-on and two-men-out, but the freshman struck out both times. Through six innings, the Commodores had stranded seven runners on base.
Vanderbilt had its best chance to tie or pull ahead in the bottom of the seventh when it had the bases loaded with no outs, but the Commodores could not cash in those runners.
The VandyBoys had arguably their top hitter at the plate in Isaiah Thomas, but he grounded out into a double play that cut off the runners at third and home. Then, Parker Noland drew a walk to load the bases again and bring Kolwyck to the plate with two outs. The inning came to an end on a weird play, however, when Kolwyck thought he fouled the ball off of his foot but the umpire ruled it fair and he was called out at first base.
The normally reliable Ethan Smith came in to pitch the ninth inning and really struggled. Smith gave up a leadoff double to Griffin Cheney followed by a booming homer over the left field wall by Merejo, who finished the game with 3 RBIs, making it a three-run deficit for the Commodores.
Vanderbilt scratched a run across the board in the bottom of the ninth on an infield single by Parker Noland, but that was all the damage done and the Commodores fell 4-2.
“We knew they were a good team; I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Corbin said. “That’s a good, scrappy, older team that hit the fastball really well.”
Vanderbilt finished the game with 13 strikeouts, 13 men left on base and eight hits.
“When they did throw a fastball, we were too big with our swings and we weren’t able to get the barrel to the ball,” Corbin said. “We didn’t stay in the middle of the field which you have to do against a team like this.”
The Commodores are back in action against Georgia State tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. CST.
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