NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt got a major boost from starter Patrick Reilly and beat Alabama 6-2 on Saturday to claim a series victory at Hawkins Field.
Reilly (4-1) went seven innings and allowed two earned runs on two hits. He struck out nine and left after 108 pitches, 68 of which were strikes.
The Commodores (34-10, 16-7 SEC) and Crimson Tide are scheduled to play the series final at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“(Friday) night I mentally prepared and today just came out with a different mentality trusting in myself and trusting what I can do,” Reilly said. “I threw hard today. It felt good, I hit a lot of my spots.
“Just using that (fastball) primarily and throwing in some cutters and changeups that kind of kept them off balance and they couldn’t pull the trigger.”
While Reilly dealt on the mound his teammates gave him plenty of run support.
Enrique Bradfield picked up right where he left off after a 4-for-4 Friday with a solid single up the middle on a 3-2 pitch in the bottom of the first Saturday. After Carter Young walked, Parker Noland stepped in with one out grounded out to first to bring Bradfield in making it 1-0.
CJ Rodriquez followed that by popping a ball into shallow right that plummeted to the grass for what turned out to be an RBI double making it 2-0.
Troy LaNeve added to the lead with a solo home run to right center in the second.
Reilly ran into trouble in the fifth with a two-out walk that set up Jim Jarvis’ RBI double to right. But the sophomore got his eighth K of the day to escape further damage.
Cooper Davis began the Vandy fifth with a walk and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Young stepped in and unloaded his 13th home run of the season out to deep right making it 5-1.
“The key for us today was really navigating the bottom of the zone,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “I thought we did a really good job of staying off the breaking ball down. It put us in favorable counts for the most part.”
Alabama’s Owen Diodati hit a solo home run to right center in the seventh cutting the Crimson Tide deficit to 5-2. Noland quickly got that run back with an RBI double off the wall in left in the bottom half of the inning.
Chris McElvain pitched two innings of scoreless relief behind Reilly.
“I think last week helped (too),” Reilly said of his growing confidence. “We’re just going to keep building on it next week whether I’ll be starting or out of the bullpen I’ll be ready to go.”
Alabama starter Dylan Smith (1-6) went six innings and was charged with five earned runs on six hits and four walks. He struck out seven.
The Crimson Tide fell to 28-17 and 11-12 in the SEC with Saturday’s loss.
Leiter Skips Start
Vanderbilt sophomore Jack Leiter skipped his weekly start Saturday. Corbin explained the right-hander just needed a weekend to rest.
“We’ve got a long way to go, I know what the circumstances are,” Corbin said. “Every game is important, every series is important, but at the same time you got to preserve the health of the kids. Some times you need to step back.
“We did it with Kumar (Rocker) as a freshman. It’s a lot of volume in a short amount of time.”
Leiter (7-2, 2.10) leads the nation in strikeouts with 106 and is among the top 10 nationally in starts, hits allowed per nine innings and strikeouts per nine innings.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.