NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The second-ranked Vanderbilt baseball team used timely offense to claim a 5-2 victory over Illinois-Chicago on Saturday afternoon at Hawkins Field.
With the win, the Commodores clinch the series and improve to 8-1 on the season, while the Flames fall to 1-4.
“I thought (Illinois-Chicago starter) Jacob) Key was very good,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “He did a nice job of slowing our bats down. He did a nice job of changing speeds when he had to. You can tell that’s an older pitcher with a lot of savvy.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of offense today, but it says something when you don’t have a whole lot of offense and you can still post five runs and win a baseball game. If you can play defense and pitch, you certainly give yourself a chance and we certainly did that today.”
Vanderbilt starter Kumar Rocker (3-0) picked up his team-leading third win of the season with a quality outing. The right-hander worked six innings of one-run baseball, allowing two hits and one walk. The right-hander racked up a season-high 11 strikeouts while retiring the last 11 batters he faced before turning it over to the bullpen.
The duo of Sam Hliboki and Luke Murphy combined to cover the final three innings and close out the game. Hliboki worked two innings, allowing one earned run on two hits,while picking up a pair of punchouts. Murphy earned his second save of the season, surrendering one hit while striking out one batter in the ninth.
Offensively, the Commodores were led by sophomore Carter Young who posted a three-hit outing. The Vanderbilt shortstop finished 3-for-5 with one RBI and a team-high three runs scored.
Illinois-Chicago struck first in Saturday’s matchup by plating one run in the top of the third. With down, the Flames used a double to put a runner in scoring position. After a strikeout wild pitch placed runners on the corners, an RBI groundout brought across the game’s first run to give UIC a 1-0 lead.
Vanderbilt answered back the very next half with a run of its own to even the score at one apiece. Young connected on his fourth home run of the season, and second of the weekend, with a solo shot to right center field.
The Commodores returned to the dish in the fifth bringing another run across to take the lead. Young led off the frame, sending the third pitch of the inning to right field for a double. After advancing to third on a flyout in the next at-bat, Young came across to score on a RBI single from Noland making a 2-1 contest in Vanderbilt’s favor.
Vanderbilt added three insurance runs in the seventh to build cushion. The inning began with a lead-off single from Young before Keegan tripled to left field. One batter later, Noland cashed in on his second RBI of the day with a single through the right side to score the second run of the inning.
Tate Kolwyck capped the frame’s scoring with a sacrifice fly to right field, pushing the Commodores’ lead to 5-1.
The Flames tallied one run in the eighth to set the score at 5-2, the eventual final.
The two teams return to the diamond tomorrow afternoon for the series finale as the Commodores will go for their first three-game sweep of the season. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. with action airing live on SEC Network+.