NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The second-ranked Vanderbilt baseball team secured its first three-game sweep of the season with a 4-2 victory over Illinois-Chicago on Sunday afternoon at Hawkins Field.
With the win, the Commodores improved to 9-1 on the season and pushed their winning streak to six games.
“Winning a close game always helps,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “You’ve got to execute from a pitching standpoint and land your pitches and you’ve got to play defense. We probably cost ourselves in the middle of that game with the balls that were hit.
“I’m not going to tell you they were easy, but at the same time we were unable to convert any of them into an out. I thought Nick (Maldonado) pitched as well as he could. I think the execution piece more than anything really helps.”
Vanderbilt starter Jack Leiter (3-0) picked up his third win of the season with another strong start. The right-hander tossed five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit and three walks. Leiter’s first eight outs of the day came via strikeout as he finished with a season-high 11 punchouts in the outing.
The duo of Maldonado and Ethan Smith combined to cover the final four innings. Maldonado tossed one inning, working himself out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth to preserve the Vanderbilt lead.
Smith earned his second save of the season, working three shutout innings while surrendering only one hit and fanning four batters.
The duo of Dominic Keegan and Jack Bulger paced the Commodore offense, finishing with two hits apiece. Bulger contributed a team-high tying two RBIs while Parker Noland drove in the team’s other two runs.
Vanderbilt struck first in Sunday’s series finale by plating three runs in the fourth to break into the scoring column. Carter Young led off the inning with a five pitch walk before Keegan followed with a double to left field to place runners on second and third.
In the next at-bat, Noland sent an RBI groundout to first base, resulting in the Commodores’ first run of the day.
One batter later, Bulger connected on his first career home run with a two-run shot to deep left center to place Vanderbilt in front, 3-0.
The Flames got on the board in the sixth, bringing two runs across to make it a one-run game. The inning began with a hit-by-pitch followed by an infield single to place runners on first and second.
A Commodore fielding error in the next at-bat allowed another runner to reach, loading the bases for Illinois-Chicago with no outs.
The Flames used a pair of bases-loaded infield singles to score two runs making it a 3-2 contest after 5 1/2 innings.
The Commodores pushed one across in the seventh to add insurance. Young began the scoring sequence, reaching on a one-out single to right field. Keegan followed up with his second double of the afternoon, sending a ball down the third base line to place runners on second and third.
Noland cashed in on his second RBI of the day in the next at-bat with a sacrifice fly to center field setting the score at 4-2, the eventual final.
Vanderbilt returns to the diamond Tuesday for a matchup with in-state foe Memphis. The Commodores and Tigers are set for a 4:30 p.m. first pitch with action airing live on SEC Network+.