Rafael Garcia walked to lead off the ninth off of reliever Russ Brewer. Pinch hitter Tony Altavilla came in and popped up a bunt attempt on his first pitch for the first out.
Sonny Gray then came in to face Nathan Orf and struck him out on a curve ball in the dirt. The ball bounced passed catcher Aaron Westlake allowing Garcia to move to second. Gray then uncorked a wild pitch that went advanced Garcia to third. Ty Rubio followed with a walk to put runners on first and third.
Gray threw a fastball high that Westlake could not control, allowing Garcia to score on a passed ball. Rubio advanced to second on the pitch and then came all the way home on a RBI infield single by Steve McGuiggan. McGuiggan grounded to deep second and just beat Riley Reynolds thrown to first. Rubio advanced to third and then headed home uncontested as no one was covering the plate to give the Flames a 3-1 lead.
VU rallied back in the bottom of the ninth as Curt Casali singled and moved to third on Aaron Westlake's single to right. Jason Esposito hit a soft roller to second to score Casali and advance pinch runner Joey Manning to second. Pinch-hitter Richie Goodenow grounded to second to put Manning at third, but Alex Hilliard flied out to center to end the game.
Both starting pitchers were locked in duel and did not factor in the decision. Mike Minor held UIC to one run on eight hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.
"I thought we pitched well tonight," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "With a young team you are capable of making mental mistakes and essentially that's what we did. When you play a good team like this, they will take advantage of those small opportunities and turn them into big plays and that's what UIC did."
UIC's Adam Worthington held the Commodores to just five hits and one run with six strikeouts and a walk. Derrick Miramontes (1-0) picked up the win, allowing one run on two hits in 1.1 innings with a strikeout.
"I thought their starter (Worthington) did a good job of mixing up his pitches," said Minor when asked about the starting pitching matchup. "We were able to get some hard hits but they were able to make plays on them. I thought I had all three pitches working well and mostly used my changeup today. UIC also had some hard hits and our defense made the plays behind me."
Russell Brewer (0-2) was charged with the loss after giving up one run with in 1.1 innings with a strikeout and two walks.
Curt Casali and Alex Hilliard led VU with two hits each, while Steve McGuiggan, Brett Schaeffer and Nathan Orf each had two hits to pace the Flames.
Casali's solo homer in the first put the Commodores on top early 1-0. It was his third homer of the year and the team's first at Hawkins Field in 2009.
UIC tied the game with two outs in the fifth when Brett Schaefer singled and then scored on Jason Ganek's triple that ricocheted off of the "Green Monster" in left field and down the warning track towards center field.
The Commodores and Flames will play the second game of the four game series on Friday at 4 p.m. Sophomore right-hander Caleb Cotham (2-0, 1.80 ERA) will take the hill for VU, while UIC will counter with junior Chris Kovacevich (0-2, 4.85).
UIC 000 010 002 - 390 Vanderbilt 100 000 001 - 270
Worthington, Miramontes (8) and Orf. Minor, Brewer (8), Gray (9) and Westlake. W-Miramontes 1-0, L- Brewer 0-2. Sv- None. HR: Casali (3)