NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jack Bulger lined a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to lead Vanderbilt past No. 23 Florida, 5-4, on Friday at Hawkins Field. With the win, the Commodores improve to 24-9 on the season, including a 6-7 mark in SEC play.
Enrique Bradfield Jr. singled to lead off the ninth before moving into scoring position with his 19th stolen base on the season. After Dominic Keegan reached base on an error, the Gators walked Spencer Jones to load the bases with no outs, setting things up for Bulger’s heroics.
Bulger drove a 1-0 pitch just over the second baseman’s glove into right field bringing home Bradfield for the winning run in the series opener.
Florida used a two-run homer to take an early lead in the top of the first, but the Commodores responded with single tallies in their next two innings to tie things up.
Keegan began the scoring sequence in the first, beating out an infield single to third before Jones followed with a single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw to place runners on second and third. One batter later, Bulger put Vanderbilt in the scoring column with a RBI single to third base to make it a 2-1 ballgame after one inning of action.
Calvin Hewett evened the score in the bottom of the second. Hewett led off the frame with a solo homer to left field, his second of the season, to knot things at two apiece.
Florida retook the lead with single tallies in the fourth and fifth innings. The Gators used a pair of doubles to plate one in the fourth and took a 4-2 lead with a two-out RBI single in the fifth.
The Commodores manufactured a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game once again.
Bulger worked a walk to get the inning started. Tate Kolwyck singled and Javier Vaz bunted Bulger and Kolwyck to second and third with one out. Pinch hitter Jonathan Vastine brought home Bulger on a sacrifice fly. Kolwyck then raced home on a passed ball to even things up at 4-4.
The two teams went scoreless across the seventh and eighth innings before Vanderbilt scratched one run across in the ninth to walk it off.
Commodore starter Chris McElvain lasted. 4.0 innings, allowing four earned runs on four hits while walking three and striking out two. McElvain was relieved by Patrick Reilly, who worked 3.1 scoreless frames and allowed just two hits while recording five strikeouts.
Thomas Schultz (2-1) took over on the mound with one out in the eighth. Schultz picked up the win with three strikeouts over 1.2 hitless innings.
Vanderbilt and Florida meet for Game 2 of the series at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday with action airing on SEC Network.