NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Top-ranked Vanderbilt overcame a four-run first inning deficit and steady rain, scoring 10 unanswered runs on its way to a 10-4 series-opening victory against Illinois State on Friday night at Hawkins Field.
Four batters into the game, Illinois State junior Joe Aeilts swatted a grand slam off Commodore starter Drake Fellows (3-0). It would be the only production against the right-hander who went on to strike out nine batters before exiting following the sixth inning.
Vanderbilt (12-2) answered with three runs in its half of the first highlighted by consecutive RBI-hits from Stephen Scott and Pat DeMarco. Two innings later, Philip Clarke worked a bases-loaded walk and Ethan Paul added a sacrifice fly to put Vanderbilt on top, 5-4.
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Paul (1-for-3) extended his team-high hit streak to 16 games with an eighth inning single. One batter later, Julian Infante added a sacrifice fly, vaulting Vandy to double-digit runs for a third consecutive game.
Scott (3-for-5) registered two RBIs and has driven in six runs in his last three games. Harrison Ray (2-for-5) provided a spark at the plate and on base, swiping two bags and plating two runs. Pat DeMarco (2-for-4) and Jayson Gonzalez (2-for-4) each reached base three times.
Reliever Tyler Brown tossed three hitless innings while fanning six and walking one. The sophomore has not allowed a run in his last five outings (8.2 innings) while helping Vanderbilt pitching limit opponents to a .193 batting average in 11 home games.
Illinois State (7-4) starter Brent Headrick fell to 1-1 with the loss. The southpaw permitted seven hits and eight runs (five earned) while walking four and fanning three. The Redbirds managed just three hits following the first inning and did not help their cause defensively, committing four errors.
The Commodores look for their seventh consecutive victory on Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. Vanderbilt will send right-hander Patrick Raby (2-0, 0.57 ERA) to the mound against Illinois State right-hander Jeff Lindgren (2-0, 2.50 ERA). The game can be seen on the SEC Network Plus.