Dores Drop Two in Arizona

Young Commodores return for Tuesday home opener

by Chad Bishop

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Things didn’t go quite as planned in the desert over the weekend for Vanderbilt.

Baseball has a way of throwing a wrench into expectations.

“I just thought we didn’t stop fighting which I love to see, especially out of the young guys,” Vanderbilt senior second baseman Harrison Ray said after a second loss in three days. “We just kept going and kept battling and, yeah, their (starting pitcher) had us down at the beginning, but we got to just keep playing. We’re going to see that through the year in the SEC. We just got to keep playing and keep winning pitches.

“I do like that we had a good fight, it came up short. That’s just baseball.”

The Commodores left Salt River Fields at Talking Stick with two defeats in three games after a 9-8 loss to Cal Poly on Sunday. Vandy (1-2) had come all the way back from down 7-2 to tie the game in the eighth then take an 8-7 lead in the ninth.

Cal Poly, however, had one last at-bat and got a pair of sacrifice flies off Vanderbilt closer Tyler Brown to walk off as winners.

“It was good to get our feet wet this weekend and see where we’re at,” Vanderbilt junior third baseman Austin Martin said. “Just scrimmaging against each other you can’t really get a sense of who we are as a team yet.

“But it seems like we got a lot of fight and we got a lot of heart and they play hard. We play hard all nine innings. You saw it against Michigan (Friday in a 4-3 loss), saw it today.”

Vanderbilt hadn’t lost its opening series of the season since 2012 when it was swept at Stanford. And it even looked as though it would escape the Southwest with a two-game winning streak after getting down by five runs after six innings and coming all the way back to tie it late.

But the Dores left seven men on base and made four errors Sunday, both major factors in defeat. For the weekend they stranded 30 runners and made nine errors.

“We got a lot to do,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “We have a long way to go with a lot of holes to correct.”

Vandy was fielding a more youthful and inexperienced team than the one that preceded it and won a national title in 2019. Three freshmen – catcher CJ Rodriguez, shortstop Carter Young and first baseman Spencer Jones – started all three games and multiple others contributed.

Relief pitchers Luke Murphy and Nick Maldonado threw scoreless innings of relief Sunday, Will Duff had a sacrifice fly in the ninth against Cal Poly to give the Dores the lead and Sam Hliboki threw three innings in a win over UConn on Saturday.

Now begins the process of learning from mistakes and defeats and moving on to the next challenge.

“We got a mature group of guys on this team, even the freshmen,” Martin said. “They understand, we all understand it’s baseball. Sometimes things aren’t going to go your way, sometimes you’re going to make mistakes. It’s a game of failure. We know things are going to happen like this. But we also know we need to get better and there’s a lot we have to improve.

“We’re not going to be the same team in May that we are today.”

Vanderbilt returns home to Nashville and now has a short turnaround to try to rectify the issues of the weekend. South Alabama comes to town for a two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday before Illinois-Chicago is in over the weekend for three games.

A new season isn’t off to the best start, but the finish has yet to be written.

“When you’ve got a lot of inexperienced kids they just need growth and it’s going to take some time,” Corbin said. “But we’re not playing good enough defense and we’re not pitching it well enough to win games.”

Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for Follow him @MrChadBishop.