The Commodores were led by All-American candidate Sowers, who pitched six strong innings, striking out six, walking just one, and scattering four hits over his 77 pitches of work. Although not entirely pleased with his performance-- "I walked one and hit a batter on an 0-2 pitch, I can pitch better"-- Sowers was happy that the team won. It has been a long off season, and the Dores were looking forward to getting the season underway and trying to better lasts year's remarkable turnaround.
In the top of the first the Salukis were retired in order. Vanderbilt plated two runs in the bottom of the first, when Ryan Klosterman reached based after a dropped third strike, was sacrificed to second by Antoan Richardson (who nearly beat out the bunt), and later scored on a Cesar Nicolas two-out double down the line in left. Nicolas scored on transfer Mike Baxter's first hit as a Commodore, a sharp single.
The Salukis tied the game with an unearned run in the second and a titanic home run in the top of the third from Greg Andrews that landed on the walkway up by the Memorial Gym entrance in left center. The Commodores answered with another run in the bottom of the third on yet another two-out hit by Nicolas, which brought Warner Jones in from second.
In innings four and five, Sowers struck out three of the six batters he faced, using all four of his pitches and taking command of the game. In the bottom of the fifth, Klostyerman lead off with a triple down the right field line, just after he pulled a pitch that had home run distance down the left field line. Coach Corbin called it "A great piece of hitting."
In the top of the sixth, Andrews struck again, depositing a ball over the right field fence-- with a resounding thud on someone's car out in the parking lot-- but that was as close as the Salukis would get. Vanderbilt scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth with their No. 8 and 9 hitters, Jonathan Douillard and Matt Zeller.
The Commodores then padded their lead in the seventh with a lead-off homerun from Baxter. In the eighth Vanderbilt flashed some great leather, in particular an outstanding running catch by Antoan Richardson, out against the wall in deep left center. The Dores' bats then tallied five more runs to add to the lead. The Salukis added two runs in the top of the ninth on Josh Markle's two-run pinch-hit homerun, but by that time the game was out of reach.
Warner Jones and Mike Baxter lead the way with three RBI's each and Cesar Nicolas and Tony Mansolino added two each. Sophomore Matt Buschmann pitched three solid innings in relief.
The 12 runs the Commodores scored was the most in an opener since 1998, when the Dores put a 12-run outburst on Lipscomb.
What a difference a year makes. Last year for the opening game at Hawkins Field there were 206 fans; Friday 716 Commodore faithful showed up to cheer the Dores on. (A word to the wise: get your tickets early, as this could be a heck of a baseball season.)
The Commodores and Salukis play Saturday and Sunday at Hawkins field, and tickets are just a buck each.
POST GAME COMMENTS
Coach Corbin on Jeremy's pitching performance: "Jeremy had a solid performance tonight-- it was a good win to start with and he is only going to get better. He pitched very well in the fourth, fifth, and sixth and picked up his velocity over those innings. As is typical of Jeremy, he got stronger as the game went on."
Coach Corbin on the offensive output: "We hit very well with two outs tonight. Cesar's two RBI's came with two outs in two different innings. Mike (Baxter), Warner (Jones) and Ryan (Klosterman) all hit well for us tonight."
Coach Corbin on Antoan Richardson: "He brings speed to the ballpark everyday, you can't coach that. He will make plays for us on the bases and in the field."
Coach Corbin on the start of the new season: "We have been waiting for this day since the bus ride home from Birmingham last year. I told the players that we need to work on improvement everyday and not to worry about goals. Those will come if we improve everyday. I told the guys to go out and improve their play over the summer in summer leagues, they did that, and I see improvement everyday in every practice."