NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vanderbilt baseball team’s comeback effort came up short on Saturday evening, as the Commodores fell, 7-4, to fourth-ranked Mississippi State at Hawkins Field. With the loss, Vanderbilt moves to 30-7 on the season, including an 12-5 mark in Southeastern Conference play.
Entering the stretch trailing 7-1, Vanderbilt rallied for three runs in the seventh to make things interesting and move the score to 7-4. The Commodores would bring the tying run to the plate with one down, but a pair of strikeouts thwarted the Vandy threat as Mississippi State held on for the win to even the series.
Starter Jack Leiter suffered the loss, marking his first of the season and the first of his career. The right-hander worked 5.0 innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits and three walks while striking out eight batters.
With his eight punchouts, Leiter surpassed the 100-strikeout mark this season, becoming the first Division I pitcher to do. He currently owns a total of 102 on the campaign.
The trio of Hunter Owen, Nelson Berkwich and Luke Murphy covered the final four innings for Vanderbilt. Berkwich and Murphy worked the final two frames, holding the Bulldogs to just one hit across the span.
Mississippi State struck first on Saturday, plating a pair of runs in the top half of the first. The Bulldogs got on the board with a leadoff home run to score their first run of the day. The inning continued with a single up the middle before a walk placed runners on first and second.
One batter later, a single through the left side scored the second run of the frame to put Mississippi State in front, 2-0, after a half inning.
Vanderbilt responded with one run in the home half to trim the deficit and make it a one-run game. Leadoff man Enrique Bradfield Jr. worked a full count before drawing a walk and swiping second to place himself in scoring position. After Carter Young worked a walk to place runners on first and second, Bradfield stole third with his second stolen base of the inning.
Two batters later, Jack Bulger got the Commodores into the scoring column with a sacrifice fly to score Bradfield and make it a 2-1 contest after one full.
The two teams went scoreless across the next three frames, before the Bulldogs added a pair in the fifth to extend their lead. Mississippi State followed a leadoff walk with a two-run homer to left field to push the margin to 4-1.
Mississippi State continued to add to its lead with a three-spot in the seventh. A one-out double followed by a walk placed runners on first and second. One batter later, an RBI double down the left field line scored the first run of the inning.
The Bulldogs scored one more on a fielder’s choice before an RBI single through the right side plated third and final run of the inning to make it a 7-1 ballgame heading into the stretch.
Vanderbilt responded with a three-run inning of its own in the home half of the seventh to cut into the deficit. Rodriguez was hit by a pitch to begin the inning before Isaiah Thomas drew a five-pitch walk to place runners on first and second.
After Mississippi State made a call to its bullpen, Cooper Davis greeted the new pitcher with a single up the middle to score one. Jayson Gonzalez continued things with an RBI single through the right side to plate a pair and make it a three-run game.
The Commodores would bring the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but would strand runners on second and third to end the inning and keep the score at 7-4, the eventual final.
The two teams will return to the diamond tomorrow evening for the series finale. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. from Hawkins Field, with action airing live on SEC Network+.