NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Jeremy Sowers struck out 10 and won his seventh consecutive decision, while Cesar Nicolas hit a bases-loaded double in the sixth inning as Vanerbilt took the series opener from rival Tennessee, 7-4 Friday in front a record crowd of 1,811 at Hawkins Field.
Vanderbilt moves to 25-26 overall, 12-16 in the Southeastern Conference and remains in the hunt for a berth in next week's league tournament in Birmingham. The Commodores climb within a game of Tennessee who is in second place in the SEC Eastern Division. Vanderbilt remains in fourth place a half game behind third-place Florida, which topped Kentucky 19-0 in Gainesville.
Tennessee slips to 31-22 overall and 13-15 in the conference.
Sowers (7-4) recorded double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time this season and the eighth time in his career. The sophomore left-hander gave up eight hits, four runs (three earned), two walks and 10 strikeouts in seven innings. Jensen Lewis pitched the eighth and ninth innings to pick up his team-best eighth save. He allowed one hit and a walk while striking out two.
Volunteer starter Ben Riley (3-6), a late substitution into the starting lineup, took the loss. He walked eight and gave five hits, seven runs (four earned) to go along with two strikeouts in five innings.
The Commodores broke open a 4-4 tie in the sixth inning. Riley hit Matt Zeller with a pitch to lead off the inning. Zach Simpson followed with a single to right field. Klosterman drew a walk that was creditted to Riley after he was relieved by Vol Joy Andrews with a 2-1 count. After John Kaye struck out, Nicolas came up with the bases loaded. He took the first pitch into the left-field corner along the line, scoring Zeller, Simpson and Klosterman.
Vanderbilt took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Warner Jones singled to center field, scoring Nicolas from second base.
Tennessee scored twice in the top of the third to grab a 2-1 lead. Javi Herrera hit a RBI ground out to second base to bring in Jordan Czarniecki, tying the game at 1-1. The next batter, Kyle Norrid, scored Josh Alley on a sacrifice fly.
Vanderbilt claimed a 4-2 lead with three runs in the bottom of the third inning. Kaye and Nicolas scored when Tony Mansolino hit a low liner the UT right fielder Chad LeGate misjudged. Mansolino advanced all the way to third base. He came in on the next play when Jones hit a sacrifice fly to right field.
The Volunteers tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Brian Cleveland and run scoring single by LeGate.
Game two of the series is Saturday at 6 p.m. It will be televised by Comcast Sports Southeast.
Photos courtesy of Neil Brake, Vanderbilt Athletics Department.