There didn't seem to be a doubt in the dugout that this weekend would end up the way the Commodores wanted it to.
The weekend was full of a rainout, a doubleheader, a comeback, extra innings, an almost no-hitter and two walk-offs. And we're back to the Commodore baseball we're used to.
GAME ONE: Vanderbilt 8, Arkansas 7 (12)
March 14, 2015
Things started out normal for the Commodores in game one of the series. Carson Fulmer started the first game of the doubleheader, which was forced by a Friday night rainout. He got through the first inning easily and Rhett Wiseman blasted a two-run home run over the right field wall to give the Commodores an early 2-0 lead in the first. But Arkansas wouldn’t have it, and in the top of the second, Rick Nomura and Bobby Wernes hit back-to-back jacks to even the score at 2-2. The ‘Dores retook the lead in the third as Dansby Swanson came home from a sacrifice by Will Toffey.
The fourth inning saw three individual runs scored by Arkansas to take a 5-3 lead. The next three frames were settled as Fulmer pitched through his rough patch, but the seventh inning saw a pitching change to Ryan Johnson, and a phenomenal double-play to keep another run from scoring. Arkansas battled again in the top of the eighth and ninth to score their sixth and seventh runs.
The bottom of the ninth had the beginnings of a comeback, as the Commodores loaded the bases with one out. One run scored on an error by the first baseman, and the bases stayed loaded. But the second out came on a short fly-out to left. Campbell ripped a line drive to left center to score two more and the Commodores pulled within one, 7-6. Delay saw a pinch-hit walk and they loaded the bases again for Jeren Kendall. A wild pitch came along and Reynolds came home to tie the game at 7-7. The game went into extra innings after a groundout ended the inning.
In the bottom of the 10th we had an interesting play at home, with Coleman trying to score on a pop-foul and a dance with the catcher saw Coleman’s swift feet avoiding the tag. Reaching for home, however, Coleman was tagged out as a flip to the pitcher at home was waiting for him.
The game went into the 12th before Rhett Wiseman (of course it was Rhett) ran in Coleman in arguably the most interesting and exciting game so far this season. The Commodores won it 8-7 in the 12th and then prepared for game two.
GAME TWO: Vanderbilt 9, Arkansas 1
March 14, 2015
If there could be polar opposites in baseball, game two accurately reflected a parallel universe in comparison the game one. Not that it wasn’t exciting.
Walker Buehler got his first win of the season after pitching six solid innings to start the game. He allowed only four hits, one being a solo homer. Kilichowski came in relief to pick up his first save of the season.
Arkansas pitchers hit five batters and allowed a Reynolds home run, his first of the season. The Commodores jumped early and scored two in the second, but the ultimate damage was done in the fifth when Vanderbilt scored five runs. They knocked out two more in the second to keep the lead 9-1 through the end of the game.
Wiseman went 3-for-4 in game two and had two RBI.
GAME THREE: Vanderbilt 1, Arkansas 0
March 15, 2015
Remember that "arguably most exciting game so far this season" in game one? Game three very closely rivals that.
Jordan Sheffield got the nod to start game three in an attempt to sweep the Razorbacks in this exciting game series. He had a rocky start, allowing two batters to reach base, but then he left an impression in the strike zone that rocked the Arkansas batters.
Sheffield pitched beautifully through seven innings, allowing only two hits, before Pfiefer came in for relief.
The Razorbacks came decently close to scoring in the eighth inning when they loaded the bases, but a fly ball to right field saw an abrupt end to the frame when the runner on third tried to tag up. Pfft. Wiseman gunned him down at the plate, he was out by a mile and a hop.
The Commodores saw their first hit in the bottom of the eighth by a Reynolds single. The Hawk erupted, with little regards to the stellar performance they witnessed by Arkansas' pitcher Killian. But who can blame them? Nobody wants to watch the reigning National Champs get no-hit in the start of SEC play.
Reynolds stole two bases after that and it seemed like the Commodores were back on the right track until a called third strike ended the frame. The game stayed even to the bottom of the ninth. Delay started the ninth with a stand-up double. Kendall bunted Delay over to third and the Razorbacks went to the bullpen for another pitcher to get out of the jam.
The Commodores load the bases and Dansby delivered a walk-off single to complete the sweep of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
This weekend was the kind of series that makes you remember why you love baseball. With the comeback in game one to tie the ballgame and send it into extra innings, everybody was on the edge of their seats waiting to find out what's going to happen next. Game two saw just as much excitement with a roaring 9-1 victory. Game three was exciting in the silent way, all up until Reynolds broke up the no-hitter in the 8th. With a walk-off by Dansby (he should start a clothing brand called that), the weekend was capped and a sweep was had.
The Commodores needed this series sweep to start SEC play to boost their confidence going into the rest of the season. They never let the LA losses get them down and they came back in full fanfare to achieve victory. Any non-conference losses were swept under the bridge as the Commodores swept Arkansas, and there’s no looking back.
Commodores are the same team we always knew they would be. This is the start of a beautiful conference season.
Pitcher of the Week: Jordan Sheffield
Sheffield pitched wonderfully in Sunday’s game, and we saw him earlier in the week as well against Quinnipiac where he pitched six scoreless innings. Sunday saw him pitch seven innings, allowing only two hits, walking three and striking out four. More importantly, he kept the Commodores in the ballgame as his opponent Trey Killian pitched seven perfect innings on the other side. He never lost confidence in his team and knew that with his contribution in pitching, the hits would come.
Player of the Week: Rhett Wiseman
Rhett had six hits in Saturday’s doubleheader and ran in five runs. He ran in Ro Coleman in game one with a triple for a walkoff, and he had a home run. The only two people close to receiving POTW honors would be Swanson, who hit the walk-off on Sunday, or Wiel, who had four hits this weekend, but neither numbers matched up to Wiseman. Also, Wiseman is Wiseman. He’s the man this year. Sorry Dans.
Vanderbilt’s next home game comes against Tennessee Tech on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 6:30 at Hawkins Field. This weekend’s series will be played at Plainsman Park in Auburn, AL on Friday at 6 pm, Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 1 pm.