Commodores Show They Are No. 1
"They are obviously the No. 1 team in the county for a reason and they are playing really well right now," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We had an opportunity. I thought offensively we really battled hard in the front of the game, and our shot was when we had the bases loaded with nobody out and weren't able to take advantage of it. From there the game got away from us."
The Tide starting pitcher Nathan Kilcrease (4-2, 2-1 SEC) took the loss, throwing four innings, allowing seven hits, six runs – five earned – with two strikeouts and a pair of walks. Vandy starter Sonny Gray improved to 7-1 on the season, and 3-1 in SEC play, throwing 6.0 innings, allowing two unearned runs on four hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
Vanderbilt collected 15 hits and scored 11 runs against the Alabama pitching staff, as all nine starters for the Commodores had at least one hit. The 11 runs are the most allowed by the Crimson Tide since a 12-run performance from Central Florida on Feb. 27.
Offensively for Alabama, Jared Reaves was 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Taylor Dugas was 1-for-4 with a run scored, Brock Bennett was 1-for-4 with an RBI, and Brett Booth was 1-for-2.
Vandy was led by Anthony Gomez's 3-for-4 night, as he extended his hitting streak to 25 games. Aaron Westlake was 2-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored, and Mike Yastrzemski was 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.
The Commodores got on the scoreboard first, plating two runs in the bottom of the second. A double to right center by catcher Curt Casali scored Mike Yastrzemski from first. Following a pair of infield groundouts, Casali scored to make the score 2-0 in favor of Vandy.
Alabama answered with a pair of runs in the top of the third inning to even the score at 2-2. Brock Bennett's grounded out to short plated James Tullidge, who reached on an error, and an RBI double by Reaves scored Dugas, who also doubled earlier in the inning.
Vanderbilt regained its two-run lead, plating a couple in the bottom of the third to answer Alabama's scoring output in the top half of the inning. With Vandy leading 4-2, Alabama loaded the bases with no outs, but Gray responded with strikeouts of James Tullidge and Dugas, and got Bennett to ground out to second to retire the side without any damage.
"We have to play really clean and take care of our opportunities that we get them," Gaspard said. "They have a tremendous pitching staff so you're just going to get a few chances against them, so you have to take advantage when you get them. We have to regroup and come back and play hard tomorrow."
The Commodores added three runs in the fifth inning, which included an RBI double by Westlake and an RBI single by Conrad Gregor. The third run came crossed following a throwing error, extending the Vandy lead to 7-2 after five innings.
Vanderbilt took a commanding 11-2 lead after scoring four times in the bottom on the sixth inning. Off Alabama reliever Adam Windsor, Yastrzemski's bases loaded two-out double plated two and Casali following with a two run single to left field scoring two more Commodore runners.
Alabama capped the scoring in the ninth inning when pinch hitter Ladson Montgomery doubled with two outs. After stealing third, Montgomery scored on a throwing error by the catcher. The double by Montgomery was hit first career hit as a member of the Crimson Tide.
No. 19 Alabama and No. 1 Vanderbilt will continue the three-game SEC series on Saturday with game two beginning at 2 p.m. CT from Hawkins Field. The Tide will start junior left-hander Adam Morgan (4-1, 4.10 ERA) and the top-ranked Commodores will counter with junior lefty Grayson Garvin (5-1, 2.36 ERA)
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