NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Led by freshman Enrique Bradfield Jr. and on the strength of four home runs, Vanderbilt beat Alabama 9-6 on Friday at Hawkins Field to take the opener game of a three-game series.
Bradfield went 4-for-4 with five RBIs, scored two runs, drew a walk and stole his 35th, 36th and 37th bases of the season. Bradfield’s fourth-inning home run was the third of four long balls hit by the Commodores (33-10, 15-7 SEC).
“It’s very impressive,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “He’s getting on-base, his two-strike swing, hitting the ball into right field into the seats – probably the biggest hit of the night – and he jumpstarted us every time he gets to the plate. Very aggressive, very attacking.
“He’s attacking the game. There’s so much innocence in the kid and he’s game that he just plays with a lot of freedom and he’s just playing to beat you. There’s certain guys that have that way about them that the only thing they’re looking to do is just beat the opponent. They keep it pretty simple.”
Vanderbilt starter Kumar Rocker (11-1) had a wild night with a curious line of 13 strikeouts, six earned runs, five walks and three wild pitches in five innings. He threw 110 pitches – 71 for strikes.
With Friday’s victory, Rocker moved into a tie with Jim Gibbs for fourth on Vanderbilt’s all-time wins list with 25.
“Probably trying to do a little bit too much, probably trying to be a little bit too perfect,” Corbin said. “When that happens you start missing a little bit and you try to refine real quick and you lose command. That’s not the first time I’ve seen something like that before.
“He gave us a good effort. It wasn’t easy.”
Vandy and Alabama (28-16, 11-11 SEC) are scheduled to resume the series at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Rocker started the night furiously by striking four – yes, four – Alabama hitters in the top of the first and then three more in the second. But Jim Jarvis quickly squashed the good vibes with a ground-rule double to dead center leading off the third inning.
Caden Rose then beat out a bunt back to the mound and Peyton Wilson ripped a single to right making it 1-0. One batter later Zane Denton drove a double into the right-field corner scoring two more making it 3-0.
Troy LaNeve began the Vandy third with a double into the right field gap. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and then scored when Bradfield rolled a first-pitch single through the right side.
Carter Young then unloaded on the first pitch he saw and planted his team-leading 11th homer of the season over the right-field fence. Not to be outdone, Dominic Keegan crushed a solo shot to left giving Vanderbilt a 4-3 lead.
The Crimson Tide came right back in the fourth thanks to a Drew Williamson walk and T.J. Reeves fly to left that hit high off the wall and went for a double. A Wilson RBI single with one out made it 5-4 and William Hamiter’s two-out RBI single gave the Tide a 6-4 lead.
Spencer Jones’ opposite-field single began the Vandy fourth and Davis’ two-out single kept the frame alive for Bradfield – and Bradfield did not disappoint. The freshman roped a three-run blast, the first home run of his career, to right putting the Commodores ahead 7-6.
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And then before that celebration was even over, Young went opposite field and dropped one onto the roof the left-field monster making it 8-6. Young became the second Commodore this season to hit two home runs in a single game as Tate Kolwyck accomplished the feat in March against South Carolina.
Bradfield added some insurance and to his career night with an RBI single in the sixth making it 9-6 and providing the final margin.
Alabama starter Tyler Was (6-2) was charged with eight earned runs over four innings. The junior righty gave up eight hits and all four of Vandy’s home runs.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.