NASHVILLE – Vanderbilt showcased its flair for the dramatic, defeating No. 5 Ole Miss by the score of 8-7, twice, in doubleheader action on Sunday at Hawkins Field to clinch its fourth SEC series in five tries.
Both times, the No. 15 Commodores (22-14, 9-6 SEC) surrendered late leads only to prevail in final trips to the plate. Vandy trailed 7-6 entering the home-half of the eighth in the originally scheduled seven-inning opener, before sending seven batters to the dish and walking off with a two-out, bases-loaded wild pitch.
The Black and Gold built up a four-run lead in the finale but the Rebels (29-8, 8-7 SEC) scored six times to jump back in front 7-5. Then, after loading the bases in the sixth, VU catcher Ty Duvall roped a one-out, three-run double into the right field corner in what proved to be the game-winning knock.
Despite Vanderbilt’s struggles on the mound, reliever Jackson Gillis (3-0) proved to be a key cog in both games, picking up the victory in the opener and registering his first save in the finale. The left-hander did not allow a base runner in a combined two innings.
After falling behind 1-0 in the finale, Duvall ignited the Commodore bats in the third, roping an RBI-triple into right field in the third. He scored one batter later as Julian Infante lifted a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right.
The Dores used the long ball to pad their lead in the fifth as Pat DeMarco led off with a towering home run over The Monster. Three batters later, Stephen Scott drilled a two-run homer into the right-field bleachers for a 5-1 advantage.
Ole Miss countered immediately, scoring four times in the fifth, as six straight Rebels registered a hit. Three-hole hitter Nick Fortes tied the game at five-all on a two-run double but the biggest play of the inning came following the play.
With the ball back in the hands of third baseman Austin Martin, the freshman caught Ryan Olenek off third base and applied the tag to complete the hidden-ball-trick. Reid Schaller entered from the bullpen, striking out Thomas Dillard before inducing an inning-ending groundout.
The Rebels added two more in the sixth but the two-run lead proved not enough. Pat DeMarco and Philip Clarke led off the home half with singles through the left side and Stephen Scott drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases before Duvall gave Vandy the lead on his three-run double.
The series-clinching victory was much like that of the day’s earlier back-and-forth opener.
In the first game, Vandy opened the scoring by capitalizing with two down as Clarke sent a run-scoring double down the right-field line to plate Ethan Paul (hit by pitch). Connor Kaiser followed, reaching base on an error that allowed Clarke to come home.
Ole Miss used single runs in the fifth and sixth to even things up but the tandem of Clarke and Kaiser again cashed in with two down. Clarke lined a two-run double into left, scoring Martin (walk) and Paul (hit by pitch) while Kaiser sent a single back up the middle to bring Clarke home.
The Rebels bounced back, scoring four runs in the seventh, tagging relievers Zach King and Tyler Brown for three hits and four runs after loading the bases with no outs on a pair of singles and a hit by pitch.
With two down in the home half, Martin reached on an infield single, allowing Scott (hit by pitch) to come home. A sacrifice fly in the eighth moved Ole Miss back in front but the lead would be short-lived.
Paul drove the sixth pitch of his at-bat for a game-tying home run. The Commodores loaded the bases as DeMarco and Kaiser both singled and Scott was intentionally walked. Reliever Greer Holston struck out Infante for the second out but with Duvall at the dish, his pitched skipped to the backstop to send DeMarco racing home.
After being limited to three runs and just one extra-base hit in an 11-3 loss during Friday’s opener, the offense erupted for a combined 15 hits – including eight of the extra-base variety – in 50 at-bats on Sunday.
Clarke finished a combined 3-for-6 with four runs, three RBIs and two doubles. DeMarco went 3-for-7 with three runs alongside a homer and RBI. Duvall, meanwhile, went 2-for-4 with a double and triple while pacing the Dores with four RBIs.
The Commodores, who have won five of their last six games, look to keep the hot streak going when they host Evansville on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network Plus.