It was warm and sunny in the opening weekend for Vanderbilt baseball--until Sunday, that is--as the Commodores welcomed the University of San Diego Toreros into town. Although the weather was probably slightly chilly for the Toreros, it's been a nice break from the freezing temperatures that's been plaguing middle Tennessee for the past few weeks-- and a successful sports team has been a nice change, as well.
The Commodores swept the Toreros, with several key returning players stepping up as offensive leaders, and also some new pitching prospects proving their worth. USD's pitching mishaps and defensive faults contributed to the sweep, but the Commodores looked as sharp as ever coming out of their opening weekend.
GAME ONE: Vanderbilt 8, USD 4
February 19, 2016
Jeren Kendall shined in the 2016 season opener getting four hits with two home runs, three runs scored and five RBI. The day was a career day for the sophomore, and he wasn't alone in his success. Jordan Sheffield pitched a good five full innings before Patrick Raby and Matt Ruppenthal debuted for the season, and Delay and Reynolds proved their offensive capabilities are just as strong as the end of the 2015 season.
GAME TWO: Vanderbilt 13, USD 6
February 20, 2016
Kendall continued his hot streak in game 2 of the series, totaling three hits in the game, including with a two-run single to give the Commodores the lead. Kyle Smith also notched three hits in the 11-hit game, and Collin Snider picked up the win from the bullpen. The game was broken open in the 6th inning, with USD scoring six in the top half, and the Commodores rallying for seven in the bottom. The seven runs secured the series victory over San Diego, as they headed into Sunday looking for a sweep.
GAME THREE: Vanderbilt 17, USD 1
February 21, 2016
The offense exploded early with four runs scored in the first, two in the second, eight in the third, and two more in the fourth to give the Commodores a 16-0 lead. Everyone had a hit except for Bryan Reynolds, and everyone plated a run. Between USD errors and faulty pitching, the Commodores ran away with this game to secure the series sweep against the Toreros. Jeren Kendall hit another two-run bomb off the scoreboard, followed by several more home runs by Alonso Jones and Kyle Smith. The Toreros had only four hits and four errors in the shutout, and go home to San Diego with an 0-3 record.
Vanderbilt showed power and discipline at the plate and defensively up the middle. Aside, from USD's pitching mishaps and defensive errors, it wasn't the only thing contributing to the victories. Vanderbilt hit a lot of home runs, but also knew when to hit and run, and squeeze out a bunt single. The transition from long ball to small ball seemed professional and effortless, and it's exciting to see that in the opening series.
Player of the Week: Jeren Kendall
Kendall went 4-for-5 in game one, 3-for-5 in game two and 2-for5 while reaching second base on an error by the USD first baseman. He had 10 RBI in his nine-hit weekend before being pulled to allow some freshmen get some early-season experience. Although everyone seemed to shine on Sunday, Kendall was the weekend player of the series.
Pitcher of the Week: Jordan Sheffield
Sheffield got his first win, and Vanderbilt's first win, of the season pitching a strong five innings in game one of the season. He only allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. It's not a bad line for his first outing of the season, and as the new Friday night performer. We all know he had big shoes to fill, and he seems to be the perfect fit for it. I look forward to seeing him command the opposition from here out.
Vanderbilt plays two midweek games, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons beginning at 4 pm, before welcoming University of Illinois-Chicago to Nashville this weekend. The Tuesday game will be against Tennessee-Martin, and the Wednesday game will be against Eastern Illinois.