The Commodores are now 23-7, 5-5 in the league, while Alabama is 20-12, 3-7 in SEC action.
Junior left-hander Jeremy Sowers went 7.2 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and walking only one. After allowing two hits in the first inning, Sowers retired the next 14 consecutive batters before Alabama's Rocky Scelfo got a single to right field in the sixth inning.
"Jeremy (Sowers) did a terrific job," Nicolas said. "He made it look so easy-– it gave us some breathing room."
Nicolas was a single away from completing the cycle. He hit a lead-off home run in the second inning; a two-RBI double in the third and a two-RBI triple in the fifth inning. In his final at bat in the seventh inning, he was intentionally walked after a passed ball advanced a runner (Jones) to second. His five RBI is a career-high and his triple was the first of his career.
"Things were just going my way, I guess," Nicolas said.
The Crimson Tide scored four runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to narrow VU's lead to 6-5. Allen Rice led off the inning with a double and Nick Richardson reached base after he was hit by a pitch. With two away, Matt Grooms hit a single up the middle scoring Rice. Carlos Sosa hit a single to left field scoring pinch-runner Mark Haske for a 6-2 score. Evan Bush reached base on a walk and Zac Welch hit a two-run single to right field to score Grooms and Sosa to narrow the Commodore lead to two, 6-4. Freshman right-hander Tyler Rhoden entered the game in relief of Sowers and struck out Gabe Sowers to end the inning.
Rice led off the ninth inning with a single and pinch-hitter Brandon Belcher hit a double off the left center field wall moving Rice to third. Commodore reliever Ryan Rote gave up a sacrifice fly to left scoring Rice to narrow the lead to one, 6-5. Rote then struck out Scelfo and forced Grooms to pop up, and in doing so earned his seventh save of the season.
"It was a big pitch he (Rote) made to get the fly out," Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin said. "We've been on the other side, too, where we weren't so fortunate."
Junior shortstop Ryan Klosterman hit his second homerun of the season in the seventh just inside the left field foul pole. He has hit a home run in three consecutive games, including one in the Nashville Sounds exhibition game, at Evansville and today vs. Alabama.
Wade LeBlanc picked up the loss for Alabama. He pitched the entire game giving up six runs on eight hits – both career highs. He struck out nine and walked two. He is now 5-2 on the year.
The series continues Saturday at 4 pm.
Score by Innings R H E ------------------------------------------- Vanderbilt.......... 012 020 100 - 6 8 0 Alabama............. 000 000 041 - 5 9 1 ------------------------------------------- Win - J. Sowers (6-1). Loss - LeBlanc, W. (5-2). Save - R. Rote (7). HBP - by J. Sowers (Richardson). PB - Richardson. Pitches/strikes: J. Sowers 116/77; T. Rhoden 17/9; R. Rote 18/13; LeBlanc, W. 127/87. Start: 6:30 Time: 2:29 Attendance: 4624 T. Rhoden faced 2 batters in the 9th. Game: VU0409