Jordan Sheffield showed up Friday night with the best stuff of his career, rolling through the Wildcats’ (22-11, 8-5) lineup early in the game. The right-hander allowed a one-out double to Evan White in the first inning but retired the next eight batters, including five strikeouts, before giving up a leadoff double to White in the fourth. Sheffield worked around the double with two more strikeouts and a pop up to Connor Kaiser to protect a one-run Vanderbilt (27-7, 8-5) lead.
Kentucky did not threaten Sheffield again until the seventh inning when JaVon Shelby worked a one-out walk and moved into scoring position when Sheffield’s pickoff throw to first was errant. The Tullahoma, Tenn. native picked up a fly out to Bryan Reynolds in center field and his 11th strikeout of the night to end the threat.
The Commodores’ offense padded Sheffield’s lead in the bottom of the inning. Freshman Alonzo Jones ripped a double into the right-center field gap to start the rally and moved to third on a Tyler Campbell sacrifice bunt. Freshman Connor Kaiser cashed in on the next pitch, lining a single through the left side of a drawn-in Kentucky infield for a 2-0 Vandy lead. Two batters later Jeren Kendall drove in the second run of the inning and his second of the night with a crisp single to right field.
Given a three-run lead, Sheffield went back to work in the eighth. After matching his career-high with his 12th strikeout to start the inning, a single by Troy Squires gave Kentucky its first base hit since the fifth. Again, the Vanderbilt defense picked Sheffield up with first baseman Ethan Paul starting an inning-ending double play with Sheffield picking the throw from Kaiser at first to wrap it up.
Back out for the ninth, Sheffield struck out the first two Wildcats to set a new career-high with 14 strikeouts before ending his first career shutout with a fly ball to center field. The right-hander scattered just five hits and walked two in his fifth win of the season.
Sheffield is the first Commodores pitcher to throw a complete game this season and the first since Carson Fulmer blanked the Florida Gators last May. Sheffield’s 14 strikeouts are the most by a VU pitcher since Fulmer fanned 14 in a shutout of Ole Miss last April.
Kendall broke up a scoreless game in the fourth inning with an RBI-triple off the wall to score Campbell. Kendall registered his third straight multi-hit game with two hits in the win. Kaiser matched his career-best with two hits.
Kentucky starter Zack Brown took the loss allowing three runs on seven hits over 6.2 innings.
The Commodores and Wildcats return to action tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. at Hawkins Field on SEC Network+. Kyle Wright gets the ball for the home team against Kentucky’s Dustin Beggs.
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