KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (VUAD)– Vanderbilt connected on three home runs, including a pair from Stephen Scott, and held off a furious Tennessee rally for a 7-6 series-opening victory on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Vanderbilt (26-23, 12-13 SEC) stretched an early lead to 7-2 on a two-out single from Pat DeMarco to plate Ethan Paul (walk) in the seventh inning, but the Volunteers struck back in a big way in the home half as Benito Santiago cranked a two-out grand slam off, trimming the margin to 7-6.
The Volunteers (27-24, 10-15 SEC) put the first two aboard in the eighth courtesy of a pair of walks against Commodore reliever Chandler Day but the junior buckled down, striking out Pete Derkay before a line-drive 5-4 double play ended the threat.
After two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth, Nico Mascia worked a walk and took second on a wild pitch before being stranded there as Day punched out Santiago for his first save.
The Commodores sent seven batters to the plate in the third, ignited by a leadoff homer by Scott and RBI-singles from Austin Martin and Pat DeMarco. Vandy came up big with two outs, driving in five runs while batting .462 (6-for-13) to snap its six-game losing streak
After Tennessee trimmed its deficit to 4-2 with two runs in the fifth, Scott and Connor Kaiser connected on back-to-back two-out homers in the sixth to stretch the lead to four.
Scott upped his career homer total to 11 while tagging two long balls in a game for the first time. The three home-run outburst marked the most for the Commodores since striking for as many on Feb. 27 against Austin Peay.
Vandy starter Drake Fellows faced the minimum through four and set down the Vols in order during the sixth before running into trouble in the seventh. Two walks and a single set the stage for Santiago who cranked a 3-1 pitch into right for a grand slam.
Fellows allowed six runs (five earned) on five hits while walking two and striking out eight over seven innings for the victory. Fellows’ punch out of Justin Ammons as part of a 1-2-3 fourth inning was the 150th of his career.
Day tossed the final two innings, striking out three batters and walking three without permitting a hit. Offensively, four Dores turned in multi-hit games, including Kaiser who finished 3-for-4 with two runs, two RBIs and a pair of doubles.
DeMarco (2-for-5) drove in a pair while Philip Clarke (2-for-5) added a double. Scott (2-for-3) reached base four times and scored three runs while added two RBIs.
The Volunteers were limited to five hits and were led by Santiago (1-for-4) who totaled four RBIs. Tennessee starter Will Heflin lasted just two innings, allowing three runs on two hits while walking one and striking out another.
The two teams return to action on Saturday with first pitch set for 5 p.m. CT on SEC Network Plus. Knoxville native and Vandy right-hander Patrick Raby (3-5, 3.48 ERA) will get the ball against Tennessee righty Sean Hunley (6-2, 2.76 ERA).
Fans can also listen to the game courtesy of the vucommodores app as well as locally on WNSR 560 AM/95.9 FM with Joe Fisher on the call. Pre-game coverage begins 15 minutes prior to first pitch.