Commodores Take Down No. 1 RiceFinal: Vanderbilt 7 Rice 3

HOUSTON, Texas – Vanderbilt scored seven runs in the final four innings to rally from a 2-0 deficit and defeat No. 1 Rice 7-3 in the season opener at the Houston College Classic Friday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

The Commodores trailed 2-0 through five innings before breaking through with a run in the sixth courtesy of a RBI single by third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Rice got back the run in the bottom of the inning on a RBI double by pinch-hitter Jess Buenger to take a 3-1 lead.

VU answered back with four runs in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead. The Commodores rally started with two outs in the frame when Brad French hit a double to left field. Ryan Davis walked and David Macias was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Alex Feinberg. The junior from Orinda, Calif., then hit a flair into shallow left-center that Rice second baseman Aaron Luna initially caught but dropped as he fell to the ground for a two-run single to tie the game at 3-3. Pedro Alvarez then followed with a laser shot to left-center that allowed two more runs to score to take a 5-3 lead.

A jovial Pedro Alvarez talks with the media
following Vanderbilt’s 7-3 win over No. 1 Rice
at Minute Maid Park on Friday. (Photo by M. Rapp)

Head coach Tim Corbin expected his team to rally due to the experience they carried into the season. “I think that’s the key to having experienced players–when you get back in the dugout and you say, `We’re going to be all right, we’re going to be all right, we’re going to be all right’ and sooner or later, we were,” said Corbin. “It’s a long game. I could just tell, I thought we could get into their bullpen and do a little bit of damage.”

Houston area native Shea Robin extended the lead to 6-3 with a solo homer to left and pinch hitter Matt Meingasner followed with nearly an identical blast to close out the game scoring.

“It feels wonderful hitting [a home run at Minute Maid],” said Robin. “I’d come to the games growing up, and wait behind the left-field line and wait behind the dugout, and just watch the players just hoping some day I’d be able to play here. I played here my senior year of high school, and even in [batting practice], I never hit one out, so I always wanted to say I hit one out at Minute Maid, and I finally played here and got another chance, and just wanted to make the best of it.”

Commodore ace David Price and the team got off to a shaky start in the second when fielding errors and mental mistakes contributed to Rice scoring two runs to take a 2-0 lead. Chad Lembeck had a fielder’s choice RBI, while the second run scored on a throwing error by shortstop Ryan Flaherty.

The team settled down and Price got into a groove striking out four of the last five batters he faced before leaving the game in the sixth. He gave up three runs on six hits in 5.2 innings of work with six strikeouts and three walks in the no decision.

Junior reliever Tyler Rhoden (1-0) gave up the RBI triple by Buenger in the sixth but pitched effectively otherwise to pick up the win. He allowed two hits and struck out one in an inning of work.

Senior reliever Stephen Shao came on in relief in the seventh and held the Rice rally attempts at bay with 1.1 innings of one hit scoreless relief. Casey Weathers then closed the game with a hitless ninth to ensure the win.

Owl starter Chris Kelley carried a shutout into the fifth before tiring. He ended up giving up a run on four hits in 5.1 innings. Reliever Bobby Bramhall (0-1) was charged with the loss after giving up three runs on two hits in 0.2 innings of work.

Feinberg and French led Vanderbilt with two hits each, while Chad Lembeck and Brian Friday led the Owls with a pair of base knocks as well.

The Commodores will play their second of three games in the tourney Saturday against Arizona State at noon. The Sun Devils, ranked as high as sixth in the national polls, carried a 3-0 record into their game against Texas A&M Friday afternoon.

Vanderbilt 000 001 420 – 7 10 3
Rice 020 001 000 – 3 9 2

Price, Rhoden (6), Shao (7), Weathers (9) and Robin. Kelley, Runnels (6), McDaniel (6), Bramhall (7), Gunderson (8), Gayhart (9) and Reagan, Lehmann. W- Rhoden 1-0. L- Bramhall 0-1. Sv- None. HRs: VU: Robin (1), Meingasner (1).