Cunningham in Control

Bryce Cunningham strikes out 11 as Dores clinch series

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bryce Cunningham had a career day on the mound for Vanderbilt on Saturday, striking out a career-high 11 batters as the Commodores defeated Illinois State 7-2 to clinch the series against the Redbirds.

Cunningham went eight innings on the bump, the longest outing of his career, and allowed just one earned run on four hits. He struck out the first five and retired the first eight batters he faced. Cunningham didn’t allow a walk.

At the plate, Vandy’s seven hits came from seven different batters.

The Commodores plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the second. Alan Espinal roped a leadoff double and moved to third on an infield single by Jayden Davis. Troy LaNeve walked to load the bases and Vanderbilt scored its first run on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Matthew Polk, scoring Espinal.

Calvin Hewett made it 2-0 with a groundout that scored Davis from third.

The Redbirds got their first hit on a two-out double in the top of the third and scored a run on an error to make it 2-1, Vanderbilt.

The Commodores scratched across another run in the bottom of the fifth. Jonathan Vastine doubled to the gap in right-center with one out. After RJ Austin was hit by a pitch, the runners were in motion as Davis Diaz lined a single to left to plate Vastine from second.

Vandy pulled away in the bottom of the sixth with four runs on two hits. LaNeve worked a leadoff walk, Matthew Polk singled and Hewett was hit by a pitch to load the bases. The Dores got one run on a Vastine groundout that scored LaNeve and left runners on second and third with one out. Austin then laid down a two-run squeeze bunt as both runners were in motion on the pitch.

Camden Kozeal made it 7-1 with a single through the right side that scored Davis Diaz who had reached on a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch.

Illinois State doubled home a run in the top of the seventh, the only earned run that Cunningham allowed. Ryan Ginther took over in the top of the ninth and retired the Redbirds on 11 pitches.

Vanderbilt (13-3) goes for the series sweep Sunday at 1 p.m.