NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt baseball team scored four runs in the ninth to force extra innings and then got a walk-off single from Spencer Jones in the 11th to stun visiting Indiana State with an 8-7 victory at Hawkins Field.
The Commodores had fought back from down 4-0 to within 4-3 going into the ninth. Then Indiana State seemingly put the game out of reach with three runs in the top of the inning.
Vandy woke up.
After a two-run homer and an RBI infield single, Enrique Bradfield did the unthinkable and stole home with two outs to tie the game. In the 11th, Bradfield was at third with two outs when Jones strode to the plate.
He whacked a single through the left side giving the home team just its second win of the season when having trailed after eight innings.
“Just hit the ball hard, get it up the middle,” Jones said of his final at-bat. “I pretty much know that on any ball (Bradfield) can score as long as you get it up the middle and beat it out at first. I got a good enough pitch to bang it up the middle and we won.”
Jones was 6-for-6 and a home run shy of the cycle. His six hits tied a Vanderbilt single-game record set by Ralph Greenbaum against Middle Tennessee on April 15, 1957.
But while Jones was the star of the night, Bradfield made the play to be remembered.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, T.J McKenzie was called upon to pinch hit — and everyone in the park somehow briefly forgot about Bradfield lurking at third. The sophomore broke for home before Indiana State reliever Jared Spencer (1-3) knew what was what.
Bradfield flopped across the plate to tie the game at 7-all.
“First and third, two outs, I turned to Corbs and I was like, ‘Let’s do something here.’ Lefty, it was a perfect opportunity, we haven’t done something like that all year it was going to catch everybody by surprise,” Bradfield said. “I walked off my lead from two pitches, turned to him, he said, ‘You got it?’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ There I went.’ ”
Christian Little got into, and out of, a bases loaded jam in the 10th to preserve a tie ballgame and Thomas Schultz (3-1) stranded a runner at third to send the game to the bottom of the 11th still 7-7. That segued into Bradfield reaching on an error with one out in the 11th, stealing second and racing to third on another error and sprinting home on Jones’ winner.
“We didn’t play that well (at the beginning) and I think they realized that you don’t have to play well throughout to win a game,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “When they needed their best they did it. Some really clutch at-bats and clutch pitching, too.”
Vanderbilt (32-15) goes back on the road this weekend when it starts a crucial three-game SEC series at No. 4 Arkansas (36-12) starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Bryce Cunningham got the start for Vanderbilt on Tuesday and gave up a one-out, first-inning homer down the line in right off the bat of Josue Urdaneta.
Cunningham started the second by plunking Sean Ross on the leg. Two outs later, Grant Magill lined a solid single to right field scoring Ross and making it 2-0.
Another hit batter put two on with two out for Urdaneta who banged one off the wall in left to put the Sycamores up 4-0.
Davis Diaz got Vanderbilt on the board in the fourth when he blasted a solo home run over the wall in left field. A Jones double and a Dominic Keegan infield hit, respectively, preceded Jack Bulger who took a pitch to the jersey loading the bases.
Indiana State reliever Jake Ridgway came in to face Javier Vaz and got a double-play ball, but Vaz beat out the throw at first and a run scored making it 4-2.
Jones began the sixth by hitting a fly ball to center – it got lost in the lights and Jones ended up on third with a triple. Keegan brought him in with a groundout to shortstop making it 4-3.
Vanderbilt couldn’t muster much of an offensive threat from there.
Urdaneta struck again in the eighth, this time with an RBI single off reliever Brett Hansen making it 5-3. Donye Evans entered the fray and allowed an RBI groundout to Randall Diaz and an RBI single to Joe Kido making it 7-3.
Carter Young battled for a seven-pitch walk before Bradfield ripped a single to right. After a sacrifice bunt, Jones reached on an infield single third bringing in another run to make it 7-6.
That put Bradfield at third and set up the late-game dramatics.
Urdaneta went 3-for-5 with four RBIs to lead the Sycamores (23-17) who came within one out of stealing a road win before it was taken right out from under them.
• The Commodores are now 2-14 when trailing after eight innings, 8-12 when the opponent scores first, 25-2 when scoring more than six runs and 25-7 when hitting a home run
• Bradfield is now 34-for-34 in stolen base attempts this season and has 81 career stolen bases. The Vanderbilt record for stolen bases in a career is 96 set by Charles DeFrance from 1980-82.
• Jones now has a 19-game hitting streak
• Vanderbilt is now 8-3 all-time against Indiana State. The two programs last met in an NCAA Regional in 2019 at Hawkins Field where the Commodores won two games over the Sycamores. Indiana State also played at Hawkins Field in a regional in 2021 but did not face Vanderbilt.
• Vandy’s four-run comeback matched its largest comeback of the season.
• The Commodores improved to 1-1 this season in extra-inning games.
• Attendance was announced as 3,696.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.