STARKVILLE, Miss. (VUAD)– Vanderbilt received timely two-out production and rode starting pitcher Drake Fellows to a 5-0 victory against No. 19 Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference opener on Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.
Seven different players recorded hits and eight total reached base for the No. 13 Commodores (13-5, 1-0 SEC), who blanked the Bulldogs (10-8, 0-1 SEC) for the first time in Starkville since April 12, 2008.
With two down in the third, Pat DeMarco belted a ball off the wall in center for a triple to score the first run of the game before racing home on an error by center fielder Jake Mangum. The three-bagger was the first for the freshman and provided the Dores an early 2-0 advantage.
A double play erased a leadoff single from Connor Kaiser in the sixth before a pair of freshmen kept the inning alive. Jayson Gonzalez lined a single up the middle and Philip Clarke looped the first of his two doubles on the night down the right field line. The Bulldogs appeared poised to escape the two-out trouble as Julian Infante grounded a ball to shortstop Luke Alexander but the junior booted the ball, allowing two runs to score on the third error of the night for Mississippi State to push the Vandy lead to 4-0.
The frame would be the final one for MSU starter Konnor Pilkington (1-2). The SEC leader in strikeouts permitted seven hits and four runs (two earned) while fanning eight and walking one in six innings in the loss.
Vandy manufactured an insurance run in the seventh off reliever Keegan James. Walker Grisanti led off with a walk and moved to second on an Austin Martin sacrifice bunt. DeMarco lined a single up the middle and Grisanti came home one batter later on a wild pitch with JJ Bleday at the plate.
DeMarco led the way with two RBIs and two hits in the win with Bleday and Clarke each adding two hits apiece. Six of the Dores’ 10 hits in the victory came with two outs with four of the five runs crossing the plate with two away. Justin Foscue had two of the Bulldogs’ five hits.
Fellows induced a pair of double plays early and overcame a career-high five walks en route to six scoreless innings. The right-hander improved to 3-0, striking out seven while limiting the Bulldogs to three hits. Zach King picked up the save, tossing the final three innings for the Dores. The lefty allowed two hits and as many walks while striking out three and clinching Vandy’s first shutout in an SEC opener since March 18, 2011, against the Bulldogs in Nashville.
Vanderbilt looks to take the series on Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. The Commodores send right-hander Patrick Raby (1-2, 1.98 ERA) to the mound against MSU left-hander Ethan Small (1-1, 3.54 ERA).