It was a high-stress weekend for the Commodores as the team was losing late in the game Friday night, and went into extra innings Saturday night, before they came out on top to sweep the Tigers in an exciting series. The Commodores showed their struggles and also their strengths to overcome them this weekend before finally blowing out the Tigers in Sunday's game to complete the sweep.
GAME ONE: Vanderbilt 8, Mizzou 6
Friday, March 25
Late-inning heroics by Bryan Reynolds and Jeren Kendall tied the game in the top of the ninth before a Reynolds two-run home run put up the lead as the Commodores took down Mizzou in the series opener. The game was looking bleak for Vanderbilt, with Sheffield letting up six runs in six innings and giving way to Evan Steele, who provided stellar relief keeping Vanderbilt in the game. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Kendall ripped a two-run single to tie the ballgame running in Tyler Campbell and Ro Coleman. After a pitching change, Bryan Reynolds, in true Vanderbilt baseball fashion, ripped a two-run home run to center to give the Commodores the lead, and the ability to exhale.
GAME TWO: Vanderbilt 2, Mizzou 0 (11)
Saturday, March 26
Saturday needed extra innings before the game saw a single run, and thankfully that came for the Commodores in the top of the 11th inning. Bryan Reynolds started the hitting in the top of the 11th with two outs to get on base, before Will Toffey walked and Jason Delay was up to bat. Delay brought home Reynolds in what ended up being the go-ahead run, and Alonzo Jones brought home Will Toffey for the insurance run. A risky double steal ended the inning for the Commodores, but the Tigers couldn't make anything of it in the bottom half of the inning. Despite a spectacular nine-inning start by the Tigers pitcher Taylor Houck, the Commodores pitching staff matched him and the offense came out on top.
GAME THREE: Vanderbilt 17, Mizzou 7
Sunday, March 27
Bryan Reynolds was the star in Sunday's blowout with two home runs and five RBI that contributed to the Commodores 17-7 victory and series sweep. Every starter had at least a hit in the game which took off as early as the second inning when the Commodores scored six runs. There was another six-run inning in the eighth even though the Commodores scored all they needed to by the sixth. It was a game to make Vanderbilt fans feel comfortable again as they headed home for a mid-week game at a professional stadium, and then another conference series at Hawkins Field.
Vanderbilt has proven to us in the recent past that it's not going to be an easy road, and nothing portrays that better than this weekend. The Friday come-from-behind win showed us that Vanderbilt can overcome a deficit. Saturday's extra-inning victory showed that sometimes, the bats won't always show up. Sunday's blowout showed us that Vanderbilt can and will make up for lost times with the bats. No, Vanderbilt didn't make it easy this weekend, but neither did Missouri, or any other SEC team so far. And no SEC team is going to make it easy for Vanderbilt, either. But, unlike last weekend, Vanderbilt showed us that they can and will win when it matters; we have the talent, we have the players and we have the coaching. We just need to remember there will be hard times.
Player of the Week: Bryan Reynolds
It's impossible to give this honor to any other player (I love when they make it easy for me). Reynolds went 5-for-14 this weekend, but the hits really came when it counted. He contributed eight RBI on the weekend, scoring five runs himself, and came in clutch for all three games-- even the two home runs in Sunday's blowout. He was the highlight of the weekend offensively, saving Friday's victory and starting the two-out rally in Saturday's extra-inning game. Without Reynolds, this weekend would have gone very differently-- and, I believe, the season would go very differently.
Pitcher of the Week: Ben Bowden
Ben Bowden got two saves in two games this weekend, when he came in to pitch in the bottom half of the final innings of Friday's and Saturday's two-run leads. For both games, the Commodores rallied on two-outs to overcome the odds and take a two-run lead, and Bowden came in to successfully save both leads. Evan Steele pitched superbly in relief for Sheffield on Friday night, and Matt Ruppenthal picked up the win on Saturday after allowing only two hits over four innings in the shutout. But Bowden maintained the team's leads and secured the victories in the two games that took the series.
The Commodores take on Belmont tonight in the neutral site at First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds. First pitch is set at 6:30 pm. This weekend, the Commodores take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. The weekend series begins on Thursday, March 31st, at 7 pm. Friday's contest on April 1st will begin at 6:30 pm, while Saturday's matinee will begin at 2 pm. Friday's and Sunday's games will be televised on ESPNU and SEC Network respectively, while Saturday's game can be viewed on SEC Network+.