VU held a 5-3 lead in the ninth when a couple of hits into the sun by Andy Leonard (infield single) and Jake Carr (double to left-center) put the tying run at second base with one out. Freshman Sonny Gray came on and got Brett Schaeffer to hit a sacrifice fly to right for the second out and then got Steve McGuiggan to ground out to second to end the game.
"I told the guys this was a foot game today and with a foot here and a foot there it could have easily been a double digit type score," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "When you hit the ball on the head things are going to happen but that wasn't the case today. We are getting a lot of production out of the top of the line-up but we aren't getting enough out of the 7, 8, and 9 hole in terms of getting on base."
Vanderbilt trailed 1-0 in the first when Jason Esposito hit a three-run homer to left to make it 3-1. It was his second homer of the year and the first at Hawkins Field. The Flames came back in the third to tie it when Jake Carr hit a two-run shot to center field.
VU took the lead for good in the bottom half of the third when Curt Casali hit a hot shot to short that bounced into center to score Steven Liddle who doubled right before him.
The Dores made it 5-3 in the fifth on Aaron Westlake's RBI single to center. Westlake finished 4-for-4, while Casali went 3-for-3. Liddle had two hits and two runs scored while Joe Loftus chipped in with two hits from the designated hitter spot.
Nick Christiani (2-0) scattered seven hits over five innings of work with seven strikeouts and a walk. Chase Reid came on in the sixth and pitched three innings of three-hit scoreless relief with four strikeouts. Russell Brewer started the ninth on the mound and recorded an out before giving up two hits due to the sun. Gray then came on and recorded the final two outs for his second save of the year.
Mike Kool (0-3) allowed 13 hits over 6.1 innings of work and gave up five runs with one strikeout for UIC. Andy Leonard and Jake Carr led the Flames with three hits each, while Brett Schaeffer and Jason Ganek added two hits apiece.
"This team (UIC) always plays us tough because they play fundamental baseball and are a good defensive team," said Corbin. "They battle your pitchers at the plate and they make you work for it. This is a tough team to beat because they make your team stay alert with their drag bunting, hit-and-runs, and safety squeezes. This is why they are a regional team every year."
The Commodores and Flames will close out the series Sunday at noon. Sophomore left-hander Sean Bierman will throw for VU, while UIC's starter is to be determined.
UIC 102 000 001 - 4(12)0 Vanderbilt 301 000 10x - 5(14)0
Kool, Salemi (7), Heesch (8) and Orf. Christiani, Reid (6), Brewer (9) and Gray (9). W-Christiani, (2-0), L-Kool, (0-3). Sv- Gray (2) . HR: VU: Esposito (2), UIC: Carr (2)