NASHVILLE - No. 3 Vanderbilt held off a ninth-inning rally from No. 16 Mississippi State to win the series opener 3-1 on Friday night at a rainy Hawkins Field.
The Commodores (37-6, 17-2) took a 3-1 lead into the top of the ninth before the Bulldogs (33-11, 10-9) made it interesting. Wes Rea opened the frame with a single to center field off VU closer Brian Miller to start the rally. Miller made a nice play on a comebacker to the mound to get the lead runner at second base for the first out of the inning. But Mississippi State responded with a single from Demarcus Henderson and a walk to pinch hitter Trey Porter to load the bases. With the tying run at second and one out, Miller got exactly what he needed when pinch hitter Sam Frost hit a ground ball to Tony Kemp. The Dores' second baseman scooped up the grounder, flipped the ball to shortstop Vince Conde, who fired to first base to complete the Commodores' second double play of the night and end the game. For Miller it sealed his 12th save of the year, breaking the Vanderbilt school record for saves in a single season.
Vanderbilt struck first with two runs in the third inning thanks to a Mike Yastrzemski single up the middle. The senior bounced a single into shallow center field to score Conde from third base and Kemp slid in ahead of the throw to make it 2-0 Vandy. The Bulldogs jumped right back into the game in the top of the fourth when Brett Pirtle led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a ground out. Zander Wiel gave the Dores an insurance run in the eighth when he lifted a sacrifice fly to center field.
Commodores' starter Kevin Ziomek (8-2) was outstanding in his eighth win of the season. The lefty allowed one run on four hits with nine strikeouts over seven innings. The junior struck out five of the first 12 Bulldogs he faced and turned in at least seven innings for the eighth time this season. He pitched out of a big jam in the sixth when Hunter Renfroe and Pirtle opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Ziomek then retired the next six batters he faced to end his night. Miller worked the final two innings allowing two hits and no runs. His 12th save of the season moves him out of a first place tie with Navery Moore (2011) and Ryan Rote (2004) and gives him sole possession of the single-season school record. Miller now has 17 career saves, two shy of Rote's career record.
Seniors Yastrzemski and Connor Harrell led the way with two hits each for the Dores. Xavier Turner extended his hitting streak to a team-best 15 games with an infield single in his final at-bat of the night.
Mississippi State starter Luis Pollorena (6-2) was solid in defeat allowing three runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts in 7.1 innings. Pirtle led the way for the Bulldogs with three of the team's six hits.
The Commodores and Bulldogs are set to square off tomorrow at noon on CSS. Vanderbilt sends Tyler Beede (10-0) to the hill to face Mississippi State's Kendall Graveman (5-3). For ticket information call 615.322.GOLD or visit vucommodores.com.