It’s here. It’s finally here.
The temperatures have dropped and the first weekend of college baseball is in the books. Vanderbilt baseball is back.
After a cold weekend consisting of a good Friday night victory and a Valentine’s Day double-header dipping into sub-freezing temperatures in the night, we can finally say it: Baseball is back.
GAME 1: Vanderbilt 4, Santa Clara 0
February 13, 2015
The weekend started off around 4 pm on Friday the 13th, when Carson Fulmer took the mound in a powerful start to the season. Combined with Phil Pfeifer, the pair shutout the Santa Clara Broncos in a cold end with a score of 4-0, limiting the hits to three. Dansby Swanson scored the first run after a lead-off triple and capitalized on a strikeout-wild pitch to come home. Ro Coleman batted in Zander Wiel and Will Toffey later in the inning. The final run came in the sixth when Tyler Campbell advanced on several wild pitches to come home on a grounder.
It was a good game for the ‘Dores to return as defending National Champions, but the most exciting performance was of the returning Pfieifer, who has not pitched since 2013. Pfiefer got the save by pitching the last four innings after Fulmer left in the fifth. There was a time Pfieifer thought he may not be returning, but his motivation and endurance stood tall and it was worth it for the Commodores in game one.
GAME 2 (1st of DoubleHeader):
Santa Clara 7, Vanderbilt 6
February 14, 2015
With weather issues looming for Sunday, the Commodores scheduled a double-header for Saturday in which they split the cost. Huge shout-out to the fans for staying so late in what ended up being nearly a nine-hour day at the Hawk.
Game one of the doubleheader saw John Kilichowski give way to Kyle Wright and Hayden Stone, whose performances, while impressive, couldn’t hold off the Santa Clara ninth-inning rally.
Offensively, it was the Dansby Swanson show, who kept Vanderbilt in the game even in the later innings with four hits in four at-bats, two runs scored, two RBI and drawing a walk. The team effort surrounded his rallying but couldn’t pull through as a three-hour and forty-five minute game came to an unfortunate 7-6 losing end, knowing they had game two coming up in about thirty minutes.
GAME 3 (2nd of DoubleHeader):
Vanderbilt 6, Santa Clara 5 (10)
February 14, 2015
Game two of the doubleheader saw below-freezing temperatures and a lot of movement from players on both teams getting warm, and then it went into extra innings. Because, why not? We were already at the field for four hours prior to that in game one. Good, old fashioned baseball kept the Vanderbilt team going and pulled through 6-5 (10) with the first walk-off early in the season.
Through the first five innings, the teams battled back and forth for the lead before settling down tied at five. The next five innings had extra-inning mentality as they stalemated offensively, before Ro Coleman put one in the infield in the tenth inning that couldn’t be handled, to allow pinch-runner Jeren Kendall to score the game-winning run and send everyone running to their warm cars that hopefully had automatic start and were already heated up by the time they got there.
There was an unfortunate loss in the midst of it, but it was an overall good weekend for Vanderbilt baseball. Dreams of an undefeated season have ended, but let’s be serious here, this is baseball: the worst team can beat the best team on any given day, and isn’t that why we love it? (And Santa Clara can by no means be considered a "worst" team.) Even with the loss, the Commodores have proven that they can rally late, and they can and will prove their worth and make it difficult to be beaten. I wouldn’t expect losing to be something we need to get used to at all this season.
Pitcher of the Week: Phil Pfiefer
Although there were plenty of great pitching performances, I would give pitcher of the week to Phil Pfiefer, who performed splendidly after nearly two years of being out. Also, it’s just plain exciting to see him back on the mound doing what he loves, and doing it well.
Player of the Week: Dansby Swanson
Position player of the week would also be hard to diagnose, since Campbell and Coleman showed up for some potentially big situations throughout the weekend, but Dansby Swanson (big surprise) put up some big numbers to start the Vanderbilt season. Keep your eyes on Rhett Wiseman, though, who hit the ‘Dores only home run in the series.
The Commodores have a midweek game at Belmont on Wednesday, but they play again at home on Friday, February 20th at 4 pm, against University of Illinois at Chicago. Let’s just hope they don’t bring down the Chicago temperatures along with them.