Not everything went to plan for Vanderbilt baseball (13-2) against Wagner (1-12). In the first half of a Friday doubleheader, the Commodores, reigning national runners-up, trailed by three runs in the sixth inning against a team that has won one game all season. Then, junior right-hander Nick Maldonado, the scheduled Sunday starter, had to be scratched due to an oblique injury.
Despite those hiccups, though, Vanderbilt swept the series with scores of 12-7, 13-0 and 15-5, scoring 33 unanswered runs after going down 7-4 in the first game. The Commodores’ 12-game winning streak is the longest since 2019.
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Maldonado scratched, McElvain struggles, Holton shines
Maldonado has had an up-and-down season after moving from the bullpen to the rotation. He has a 1.50 ERA but hasn’t lasted past the fourth inning in any of his starts and has just struckout seven in 12 innings. Maldonado’s injury isn’t expected to be long-term, but coach Tim Corbin isn’t sure when he’ll be back.
“Hoping this week, but we’ll see how it feels,” Corbin said. “It’s just at this point, right now, we didn’t want to push it. Right. Could he have pitched, maybe, but he wouldn’t have been at his best.”
Chris McElvain, who had an otherwise strong season as the Friday starter, struggled to put hitters away in his start. Luck didn’t help him, either, as the Seahawks at one point hit two consecutive ground balls off his leg, the second of which led to two runs. In all, he allowed seven hits — most of which came on ground balls — and six runs (three earned) with one walk and two strikeouts.
Sophomore right-hander Patrick Reilly came in with two outs in the fifth, the first time this season he’s had to work out of another pitcher’s jam. In 4⅓ innings, Reilly’s longest outing of the season, he allowed three hits and one run with two walks and five strikeouts.
“With two strikes, (McElvain) wasn’t able to put them away,” Corbin said. “And I thought they did a pretty good job of putting the ball in play. They found some holes. They hit some balls hard and I thought they came on offensively very aggressive. And I think more than anything, they were the aggressor, and we weren’t so much on the mound.
” … What (Reilly) did is he stabilized the game and gave us a chance to come back. And then we played some offense later in the game and got the lead.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, Carter Holton was stellar, striking out 13 in six shutout innings with one walk and one hit. Holton was a bit concerned after seeing how much contact Wagner made off McElvain, but focused on executing his offspeed pitches in different counts.
“Just being able to throw every pitch at different counts for strikes helped me out,” Holton said.
Sophomore Grayson Moore started Sunday’s game in place of Maldonado and pitched two scoreless innings with two walks and three strikeouts. Sophomore left-hander Hunter Owen followed him, pitching four innings and allowing one run on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts.
Power bats coming alive
After a few relatively quiet weekends on offense against Oklahoma State and Army, Vanderbilt’s top power bats have come alive. Eight different players hit home runs in the series, with senior catcher Dominic Keegan hitting two. In the Sunday game, the Commodores had eight doubles, their most in a game since 2017. Overall, 15 players got hits in the series and 12 had at least one RBI, with Keegan leading the way at eight RBIs. In total, Vanderbilt took 21 walks in the series.
After playing sporadically in 2020 and 2021 due to injuries, junior outfielder Spencer Jones continued his hot start to the season. He went 5-for-7 on the weekend with two doubles, a home run and four walks.
“We were just being patient,” Jones said Sunday. “We weren’t chasing anything out of the zone. We were on time for that fastball and hit the ball hard to make contact.”
With the blowout games, several players were able to make their first appearances of the season, including freshman shortstop Rob Gordon, freshman outfielder Kenny Mallory and sophomore right-hander Donye Evans. Sophomore outfielder Calvin Hewett hits his first career home run Sunday.
Vanderbilt faces Michigan at Hawkins Field on Tuesday having won 25 consecutive home midweek games dating back to 2019. After that, the Commodores open SEC play with a weekend series against Missouri.
Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt Athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @aria_gerson†