Nashville, Tenn. - No. 7 Vanderbilt jumped out to an early lead in the home opener against Evansville and held on for a 7-4 win at Hawkins Field on Wednesday.
The Commodores (3-1) built a four-run lead through the first three innings but the Purple Aces (1-3) battled back into the game and narrowed the Vandy lead to a single run in the sixth inning. The score held until the bottom of the eighth when the home team rallied to put the game away. Freshman JJ Bleday reached on an error with one down and moved to second on Jason Delay's infield single. Ro Coleman then came through with a clutch, two-out triple into the left-center field gap that rolled all the way to the wall to chase Bleday and Delay home and push the Dores' lead back to three runs.
Sophomore Maddux Conger took advantage of the early cushion in his first career start, turning in 4.1 strong innings to earn the win. The right-hander struck out five the first time through the lineup and allowed only three singles through the first three frames. He navigated around a one-out double and a walk in the fourth with his sixth strikeout of the game and a fly ball to right field. The Aces finally got to him in the fifth when a leadoff single was followed by a double and sacrifice fly to get Evansville on the board. Freshman Zach King entered from the bullpen and ended the threat with the help of Jeren Kendall, who nailed a runner at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
Matt Ruppenthal pitched the Dores out of another jam in the eighth inning, getting a strikeout to leave two runners aboard. The junior then tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his first save of the season.
Will Toffey led a trio of Commodores to post two-hit games joining seniors Delay and Coleman with Coleman's two RBIs leading the squad. Connor Kaiser reached base three times, including his first double of the year, and scored two runs. Jackson Gillis made his collegiate debut in impressive fashion, striking out the side in the seventh inning.
Evansville starter Alex Weigand took the loss after giving up four runs, three earned, on five hits over three innings. Travis Tokarek and Korbin Williams each had a pair of hits in the loss.
The Commodores now turn to the weekend to face UIC in a three-game series beginning Friday at 4 p.m. Junior Kyle Wright gets the ball for the home team against the Flames' lefty Jake Dahlberg.