Jordan Sheffield and Bryan Reynolds led the team to a shutout-victory in the first of three games against the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames. With spectacular pitching and the offense showing up right on time, it didn't look like there would be any issues for the Commodores coming out with this one.
Friday night's contest against UIC started off slowly, with the 'Dores only bringing in one run in the first on a Jason Delay single to score Ro Coleman.
Scoring didn't proceed again until the third inning, after Conor Kaiser beat out a close play at first to get the inning started. Ro hit a nice shot up the middle causing a difficult throwing error, and the two runners managed to snag an extra base. Bryan Reynolds hit an RBI-single to score Kaiser, and then Coleman came around and beat the tag at home to bring the Commodores' lead to 3-0.
The game blew open in the fourth with things starting off on a balk to score Will Toffey before Kyle Smith stole home on a suicide squeeze to make it 5-0. Jeren Kendall tripled to score Coleman before being run in by a 2-run home run by Reynolds to give the Commodores an 8-0 lead going into the 5th.
Evan Steele, a freshman from Marietta, GA, came in for Sheffield in the eighth inning, striking out the first batter he faced, and picking right up from where Sheffield left off. He sat down all three batters he faced to continue the amazing pitching performances from Vanderbilt in the evening.
Liam Sabrino came in to pinch-hit for Coleman in the bottom of the eighth, and doubled to score Kaiser to bring the Commodores' lead to 9. That was all the Commodores could muster after making a couple more batting replacements, and Maddux Conger came in for the 9th inning.
Maddux nailed the last three batters on 10 pitches to secure the Commodores a victory in the series opener against UIC.
Jordan Sheffield allowed a couple of hits in the first few frames, but ultimately seemed to be in control of his fastball. The new Friday night starter continues to show promise in the weekend rotation, with a smart pitching sequence involving a dominating fastball with some well-placed change-ups.
Sheffield pitched a full 7 innings on 107 pitches, allowing only 5 hits and 0 runs, while striking out a commanding 11 hitters. He barely pitched with a runner in scoring position and when he did, he didn't seem to lose control. The only times his pitches started getting a little wild were towards the 100-pitch count, which he was still striking out his 10th and 11th batters.
With the Flames shut out in the first game, the Commodores look to win the series on Saturday, February 27th, with a 12-noon start time.