The Commodores (9-2) struggled out of the gate, as the Redbirds (4-5) jumped on Vandy starter Kyle Wright for four runs on five hits in the first inning. The freshman allowed four straight hits after retiring the leadoff batter to score the first three runs before a two-out single capped the four-run first. Tyler Ferguson relieved Wright after the first but struggled with his command, walking three and allowing a single before departing in favor of Joey Abraham. The freshman right-hander was greeted by a run-scoring double then issued three walks of his own to end his day. Ryan Johnson entered the game and took control for the Commodores. The lefty walked the first batter he faced to force in a run but did not allow another base runner until the fifth inning when a runner reached on an error.
With Johnson in control on the mound, the Vandy offense had a chance to get back in the game and did it in the fifth. Three singles loaded the bases with two outs in front of Zander Wiel. The slugger delivered for the second time this week with a grand slam, this time over the left field scoreboard to put the Dores on the board and start the comeback. Vanderbilt followed with six runs on three hits in the sixth with help from three Redbirds errors. Dansby Swanson started the scoring with a RBI-double as the wheels began to fall off for Illinois State. A would-be double play ball bounced between the second baseman’s legs to keep the rally alive and an error on the first baseman kept the inning going for Penn Murfee. The Nashville-native responded with a single up the middle that the Illinois State center fielder misplayed allowing two runs to score and tie the game.
The Dores finished off the comeback in the seventh with their third straight inning of sending 10 men to the plate. The inning started off with two quick outs but the next seven Commodores all reached base safely with six of them scoring. Jason Delay’s big two-run double capped the rally that saw Nolan Rogers drive in two runs with a single before stealing home as part of a double steal with Ro Coleman.
Vanderbilt racked up a season-best 19 hits in the comeback win scoring 16 runs for the third time in five games this week. The Dores have scored 61 runs over the team’s last five games while hitting .365 with 20 extra-base hits. Nine Commodores collected at least one hit in the win with the first four batters in the VU lineup – Bryan Reynolds, Rhett Wiseman, Swanson and Wiel – combining to go 12-for-23 with three hits apiece. The quartet scored nine of the team’s 16 runs on the day.
Ben Bowden earned the win with three dominating innings. The big lefty struck out a career-best eight batters over his three scoreless frames allowing only one hit and a pair of walks. Johnson was the unsung hero out of the bullpen with 4.2 scoreless innings. The southpaw struck out three and did not allow a hit.
The come-from-behind win is the fourth of the season for the Commodores, who had 12 comeback victories all of last season. The Dores rallied from five runs down to beat Western Kentucky on Wednesday.
Steve Heilenbach took the loss for the Redbirds allowing six runs, four earned, on five hits over 1.1 innings of relief. Five of the six Illinois State pitchers allowed at least one run. Ryan Koziol paced the Redbirds’ offense driving in two runs, scoring twice to go along with a pair of hits.
Vanderbilt returns to action on Tuesday against Evansville with first pitch set for 4 p.m. at Hawkins Field.
Baseball: Vanderbilt 16, Illinois State 10
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