NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Right fielder JJ Bleday tied Tuesday’s contest with a ninth-inning home run and provided a two-out game-winning RBI-single in the 10th inning as No. 5 Vanderbilt walked off Western Kentucky, 5-4 at Hawkins Field.
The Commodores (23-6) mustered little offensively, trailing by a run entering the ninth before Austin Martin smacked a leadoff home run over The Monster and Bleday followed, shooting a solo shot into the right-field bleachers. The long ball was Bleday’s sixth in as many games.
Ethan Paul drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the 10th and took second as Kiambu Fentress reached on a sacrifice bunt that could not be fielded. Walker Grisanti moved the runners into scoring position but after Cooper Davis was intentionally walked, Martin popped up to second base for the second out.
Bleday (2-for-6) watched a first-pitch ball before sending a Maddex Richardson (0-1) slider into center field. The walk-off was the first for Vanderbilt since Bleday cleared the center-field fence against Mississippi State in the 2018 NCAA Nashville Super Regionals.
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Commodore reliever Ethan Smith (3-0) secured the win, holding the Hilltoppers (14-12-1) hitless in the final two innings while fanning four. Starter Mason Hickman limited Western Kentucky to four hits and as many runs and struck out nine across seven frames.
Hickman pushed his scoreless-inning streak to 25 before the Hilltoppers’ bottom of the order delivered in the second inning. Eight-hole hitter Kevin Lambert and nine-hole batter Sam McEltreath connected on consecutive RBI-doubles for the 2-0 advantage.
Davis (2-for-4) trimmed the deficit to one, working a bases-loaded walk in the second. Martin (3-for-6) drove in Davis in the fifth while recording his team-best 14th multi-hit game. Vandy managed just six hits through seven innings before replicating the total in the final three.
The Commodores begin a four-game road trip on Friday, visiting No. 4 Georgia in a matchup of two of the SEC’s top teams. The opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT while Saturday’s middle game gets underway at 1 p.m. The Sunday finale will start at 11 a.m. and be broadcast on the SEC Network.