Homers, Sweep Cap Regular Season

Vanderbilt notches 7-4 win in finale

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Right fielder JJ Bleday unlocked a four-all tie in the ninth with his 25th home run and the No. 2 Commodores struck four long balls on the day, outlasting Kentucky 7-4 in the regular season finale Saturday at Kentucky Proud Park.

With the win, Vanderbilt (45-10, 23-7 SEC) registered its 18th win in the last 19 matchups. The sweep was Vandy’s fifth conference sweep of the season and extended the club’s streak to 11 consecutive road wins, dating to April 9.

The Commodores have won six consecutive SEC series entering next week’s league tournament in Hoover, Alabama. Vanderbilt enters the event as the top-seed and will open double-elimination play Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of No. 8-seed Auburn and No. 9-seed Tennessee.

Ethan Paul made it back-to-back shots in the ninth, sending a 1-2 pitch just inside the left field foul pole. Stephen Scott added additional insurance with an RBI-single into center as part of a three-run frame.

Austin Martin uncorked the first pitch of the game from Zack Thompson for his sixth homer of the season and one inning later, Harrison Ray drilled a two-out solo homer into left for a 2-0 advantage. Thompson had allowed just one long ball in 84.0 innings entering the game.

Philip Clarke and Scott reached on singles in the fourth, setting the stage for Ray to slice a run-scoring single just inside the third base bag. Julian Infante added a fielder’s choice groundout, scoring Scott to put the Commodores ahead 4-1.

The Wildcats (26-29, 7-23 SEC) struck back in the fourth, chasing starter Patrick Raby courtesy of Dalton Reed’s sixth homer and a Ryan Johnson RBI-single through the left side. Reliever Ethan Smith entered with the bases loaded and needed just one pitch to induce an inning-ending groundout.

Smith did not allow a hit in 2.1 scoreless frames. The freshman fanned one and walked another. Tyler Brown (2-1) permitted just one hit in the final 2.2 innings while striking out five. The duo helped limit Kentucky to .167 (2-for-12) with runners in scoring position.

Kentucky evened the game in the seventh without a hit. Cam Hill was plunked by a Hugh Fisher pitch and took third as a pair of walks loaded the bases with one away. Brown entered, inducing a fielder’s choice groundout that plated one before striking out Reed to strand a pair.